Onychomycosis & Fungal Skin Infections
Fungal nail (onychomycosis) and skin infections are caused by a growth of fungus in the skin and nail. They usually cause rashes with a variety of different appearances. Some are red, scaly and itchy, while others may just produce a fine scale similar to dry skin. Fungal infections of the scalp or beard can lead to hair loss. Fungal infections can mimic other skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. Fungal nails can cause nails separation and smelly crumbs under the nails. Poor hygiene and prolonged wet skin increase the risk of infection.
Common fungal skin infections may be caused by a group of fungi called dermatophytes, or yeasts such as Candida. These include:
- Athlete’s foot (Tinea Pedis) – a common infection causing scaling and sogginess of the skin of the feet and the web spaces between the toes
- Nail infection (Onychomycosis, Tinea Unguium) – visible as malformed, thickened, discolored and crumbly nails
- Ring worm of the groin (Jock itch, Tinea Cruris), body (Tinea Corporis), scalp (Tinea Capitis) – often resulting in an itchy red rash that may be scaly at the edges and clear skin in the centre and ultimately dark marks (post inflammatory hyperpigmentation)
- Intertrigo – a yeast infection of the skin folds
- Pityriasis Versicolor/ Tinea Vesicolor – a yeast infection causing dark or light scaly patches over the trunk of the body
Diagnosis and Treatment
Most fungal infections can easily be diagnosed by a dermatologist from the appearance and location of the rash. In selected cases, skin scrapings, nail clippings or hair samples may have to be sent to a laboratory to confirm the diagnosis.
Most fungal skin infections are surface infections. These usually respond to topical treatments applied directly to the infected areas of the skin, which may be in the form of a cream, lotion or shampoo.
Antifungals in tablet form such as terbinafine and itraconazole may be prescribed by doctors for certain infections, especially when severe, extensive or refractory to topical treatments.
Some measures can be taken to reduce the risk of recurrence of superficial fungal infections:
- Wear loose fitting cotton clothing that is designed to wick moisture away from skin surface
- Avoid sharing towels, clothes, shoes, slippers and hair combs
- Avoid barefoot in public showers or wet floorings
- Allow the groin and feet to dry completely after shower before putting on clothes