Fungal Skin Infections

Fungal skin infections are a common cause of skin rash and irritation. They are caused by an overgrowth of fungus on different areas of the skin, and while they aren’t dangerous, if left untreated, they can easily spread or be passed on to others. They most commonly occur in warm, moist or humid environments on the skin. Symptoms are usually specific to the type of fungal infection, but are generally characterised by itching and redness, with a well defined border.

There are many topical antifungal products that can be used to treat fungal infection, and ensuring compliance to the regime is the most effective way to treat the condition. This includes ensuring you apply the cream the recommended number of times per day and for the duration of treatment for the chosen product.

Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis)

Athlete’s foot is the most common type of fungal infection. It commonly occurs in the webbing of the toes. Common symptoms include white, peeling skin, itchiness and occasionally an unpleasant smell.

Just as important as appropriate treatment, there are some steps you can take to prevent future infections

  • Wearing rubber thongs in public bathrooms or showers
  • Allowing feet to naturally air out as much as possible, particularly in warm weather
  • Thoroughly drying your feet, including between your toes after bathing or showering
  • Not sharing towels with other people to prevent spreading the infection
  • Frequently changing your socks
  • Dusting your shoes or socks with antifungal powder

Jock itch (tinea cruris)

Jock Itch is a fungal rash which occurs in the groin area, and may spread to the inner thigh and buttocks. It occurs more commonly in men than women, overweight or obese people or people who perspire heavily. Symptoms include itching and a red rash with a well defined edge.

In addition to an appropriate antifungal treatment, the following steps can prevent recurrence:

  • Keep groin and genital area dry. Dry thoroughly with a clean towel after showering or bathing and ensure you dry your feet last to prevent spread of athlete’s foot infection
  • Don’t share your clothes, towels or underwear
  • Change your clothes or underwear at least once a day, more often if you perspire heavily
  • Avoid tight fitting clothes or underwear (choose boxer shorts rather than briefs)

Ringworm (tinea corporis)

Ringworm is a term commonly used to define a fungal skin infection of large surfaces, not occurring on the face, hands, feet, groin or scalp. Common characteristics include red, inflamed and scaly patches with a well defined border. The lesions are commonly circular in shape, and often have a centralised clearing which is where the name originated from.

As with other fungal skin infections, ringworm is contagious through contact with infected people, animals or surfaces. For this reason it is important to practise good hygiene to reduce the spread.

Fungal nail infections (tinea unguium or onchomycosis)

Fungal infections can also occur in the nail, or nail bed. Common symptoms include nails that are:

  • Discoloured, typically yellow, brown or white
  • Brittle or break easily
  • Thickened

This type of infection is particularly persistent and it can take a long time to clear the infection. Adherence to treatment regimes is critical in achieving a result.

Vaginal thrush (candida albicans)

Vaginal thrush is caused by an overgrowth of a naturally occurring yeast, causing an infection. It is a very commonly occurring infection in women, with symptoms including:

  • Itching or burning
  • A white discharge with “cottage-cheese” consistency
  • Stinging or burning when urinating
  • Redness or swelling of vagina

All treatments for vaginal thrush are Pharmacist Only Medicines, so you will need to speak to your pharmacist for appropriate treatment.

Better Health Channel – Better Health Channel
Mayo Clinic – Mayo Clinic
Rutter, Paul & Newby, David (2008), Community Pharmacy: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment, Elsevier Australia, Carlton.