Fungal Skin Infections

Fungal organisms can be found on the skin of most adults forming part of the bodies commensal flora (naturally existing non-pathogenic species living in the body). These fungal species can be broken into two categories single-celled organisms (yeasts) or multicellular organisms (molds). Common fungal infections include vaginal candidiasis (thrush), tinea pedis (atheletes foot) and dermatophytosis (ringworm). Fungal infection can either be caused by commensal organism becoming pathogenic (disease-causing) or by direct infection of parasitic organisms (organisms that live on the host causing some level of harm).

Fungal infections usually occur due to the presence of the fungus combined with the existence of a favourable environment for the organism to thrive. Risk factors for developing fungal infections include:

  • The presence of damp environments caused by excessive sweating, wearing damp clothes, exposure to wet flooring (swimming pools) etc.

  • The killing of other competitive commensal organisms, allowing a non-infective organism to overgrow and become infectious. For example in candidiasis (thrush), use of antibiotics or soaps can be a risk factor.

  • If an individual has a compromised immune system due to other co-existing disease or medications.

Treatment

Treatment of fungal infections includes both using anti-fungal medicines and trying to avoid or minimise the favourable environment that has allowed the fungus to thrive. Fungal infections tend to be stubborn therefore prolonged courses of treatment are required. Crucially just using antifungal treatment alone without removing the favourable environment creates a significant risk of recurrence or failure of treatment.

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