Types of fungal infections you should know about
Fungal skin infections are caused by different types of fungi and can be a common culprit of itchy skin.
Fungi invade and grow in dead keratin, a protein that makes up your skin, hair and nails. The different types of fungal infections are divided into groups based on what type of fungus is involved.
Here are some types of fungal infections:
Athlete’s foot (Tinea pedis)
It’s caused by a fungus that grows in warm, damp areas of skin, such as between your toes. The infection makes your skin itchy, flaky and red. The soles of your foot can also become dry and scaly. You might get blisters too.
You can pick up athlete’s foot if you walk barefoot on damp, contaminated floors such as communal shower areas, swimming pools or saunas. If you don’t wash your hands after you touch your feet, Athlete’s foot can spread to other parts of your body.
Nail infections (Tinea unguium)
A fungal nail infection usually starts at the edge of your nail and spreads slowly down to the base. They tend to take a long time to develop. They cause your nail to discolor and become crumbly. The surrounding tissue may also get thicker. Eventually, your nail can become so thick that it’s painful to wear shoes. Toenails are usually affected more than fingernails.
You can get a fungal nail infection if you have athlete’s foot and it spreads to your nails. You can also get an infection if your nail is weak, for example from injuring it.
Ringworm on the body (Tinea corporis)
Ringworm on your body usually affects parts of your body that are exposed, such as your arms, legs or face, and it causes a red, ring-shaped rash. Ringworm can spread with close contact. You can catch it by touching somebody who already has ringworm, or by touching contaminated items, such as clothing or bedding. Farm animals such as sheep and cattle carry the fungi that cause ringworm, as well as domesticated pets like cats and dogs.
Ringworm in your groin (Tinea cruris)
This is also called ‘jock itch’ because it’s more common in young men. This is because the scrotum and thigh are in close contact, which can create conditions in which fungi can thrive. It can also affect women who wear tight clothing. It can cause an itchy, red rash in your groin and around the top of your legs.
Like ringworm on your body, ringworm in your groin can spread with close contact and you can pass it on in the same ways. You may also get ringworm in your groin if you’ve had athlete’s foot and touch your groin after touching your foot without washing your hands.
Ringworm on your scalp (Tinea capitis)
You can get this at any age, but it mostly affects children. Ringworm can affect any part of your scalp but you usually get patches of it. Symptoms can be similar to those of ringworm in your groin and body and your scalp will look scary and can feel itchy. You may also develop a pus-filled area on your scalp, called a ‘kerion’. During the infection, it’s possible that your hair may fall out and leave bald areas but it usually grows back once you treat the infection.
You can get ringworm on your scalp by sharing a contaminated hairbrush or clothing used by somebody with the infection.
Some fungal skin infections are caused by yeast infections. Intertrigo is a yeast infection that you can get in the folds of your skin, such as on your abdomen (tummy) if you’re overweight. It’s often caused by the yeast Candida albicans. If it affects an area where your skin presses or rubs together, then it may cause chafing. If you have intertrigo, your skin may turn red or brown and if it’s very moist, it can start to break down.
Pityriasis versicolor (Tinea versicolor)
This is caused by a type of yeast called Malassezia. It’s quite common and usually affects young adults, particularly men. If you have pityriasis versicolor, you may get patches of scaly, mildly itchy and discolored skin on your back and torso. This is usually a pink or brown color. If you have darker skin, it may lose some of its colors.
Thrush (Candida albicans)
C. albicans is a common fungus that often lives in your mouth, stomach, skin and vagina (in women). It doesn’t usually cause any problems. But if the conditions are right, the yeast can multiply and cause the symptoms of thrush. This can happen if:
- you wear tight clothes;
- you don’t wash every day;
- you’re taking antibiotics;
- you’re immune system isn’t working as well as normal because you’re pregnant or have diabetes.
A thrush infection often looks like small white patches, or areas of red skin. In women, vaginal thrush can cause itchiness and a white discharge.
You can also get thrush in your mouth – oral thrush, which most often affects babies and older people (particularly if you wear false teeth). It can look like white patches, which leave a red mark if you rub them off. Oral thrush can be quite painful which can make eating and drinking difficult.
How do I know what type of skin fungal infection I have?
The best way to know what type of fungal infection you have is to ask your doctor. If you see your doctor, they will ask about your symptoms and examine you. They may also ask you about your medical history.
Your doctor will usually diagnose a fungal skin infection by looking at your skin and the location of any rash. They may take a scrape of your skin or a fragment of your nail or hair. Your doctor will send this sample to a laboratory for testing to confirm the diagnosis.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnose or treatment.
Review Date: January 4, 2017 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017
Image Collection: Fungal Skin Infections. http://www.emedicinehealth.com/image-gallery/ringworm_picture/images.htm. Accessed September 21, 2016.
Fungal infections. http://kidshealth.org/en/kids/fungus.html. Accessed September 21, 2016.
The Merck Manual Home Health Handbook. Page 1320-1324.