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Overview of Fungal Skin Infections

By

Denise M. Aaron

, MD, Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine

Last full review/revision Feb 2020| Content last modified Feb 2020
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Topic Resources

Fungi Overview of Fungal Infections Fungi are neither plants nor animals. They were once thought to be plants but are now classified as their own kingdom. Some fungi cause infections in people. Because fungal spores are often... read more usually make their homes in moist areas of the body where skin surfaces meet: between the toes, in the genital area, and under the breasts. Common fungal skin infections are caused by yeasts (such as Candida Candidiasis (Yeast Infection) Candidiasis is infection with the yeast Candida. Candidiasis tends to occur in moist areas of the skin. Candidiasis may cause rashes, scaling, itching, and swelling. Doctors examine the affected... read more Candidiasis (Yeast Infection) or Malassezia furfur Tinea Versicolor Tinea versicolor is a fungal infection of the topmost layer of the skin causing scaly, discolored patches. This infection is caused by a type of fungus. Typically, people have scaly patches... read more Tinea Versicolor ) or dermatophytes Overview of Dermatophytoses (Ringworm, Tinea) Dermatophytoses are fungal infections of the skin and nails caused by several different fungi and classified by the location on the body. Dermatophyte infections are also called ringworm or... read more , such as Epidermophyton, Microsporum, and Trichophyton. Many such fungi live only in the topmost layer of the epidermis (stratum corneum) and do not penetrate deeper. Obese people are more likely to get these infections because they have excessive skinfolds, especially if the skin within a skinfold becomes irritated and broken down (intertrigo Intertrigo Intertrigo is irritation and breakdown of skin (maceration) in areas where two skin surfaces rub together. Sometimes bacterial or yeast infections develop. The diagnosis is based on the location... read more Intertrigo ). People with diabetes Diabetes Mellitus (DM) Diabetes mellitus is a disorder in which the body does not produce enough or respond normally to insulin, causing blood sugar (glucose) levels to be abnormally high. Urination and thirst are... read more tend to be more susceptible to fungal infections as well.

Strangely, fungal infections on one part of the body can cause rashes on other parts of the body that are not infected. For example, a fungal infection on the foot may cause an itchy, bumpy rash on the fingers. These eruptions (dermatophytids Dermatophytid Reaction A dermatophytid reaction is the body's reaction to a dermatophyte (fungal) infection and is a skin eruption that appears on an area of the body that is not the area where the infection first... read more Dermatophytid Reaction , or identity or id reactions) are allergic reactions to the fungus. They do not result from touching the infected area.

Diagnosis of Fungal Skin Infections

  • Skin scrapings or cultures

Doctors may suspect a fungal infection when they see a red, irritated, or scaly rash in one of the commonly affected areas.

Treatment of Fungal Skin Infections

  • Antifungal drugs

  • Measures to prevent moisture

Fungal infections are typically treated with antifungal drugs, usually with antifungal drugs that are applied directly to the affected area (called topical drugs). Topical drugs may include creams, gels, lotions, solutions, or shampoos. Antifungal drugs may also be taken by mouth.

In addition to drugs, people may use measures to keep the affected areas dry, such as applying powders or wearing open-toed shoes.

For some infections, doctors give corticosteroids to relieve inflammation and itching.

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Test your knowledge

Psoriasis
Psoriasis is a common chronic disease affecting 1 to 5% of the population worldwide. It causes distinctive raised, red patches with silvery scales. A border between the patch and normal skin is known as “psoriatic plaque.”  Which of the following is the reason these patches of plaque form?
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