Fungi are microorganisms that come in varied shapes, sizes and habitats. Not to be confused with bacteria or viruses, fungi are abundantly found in our environment and even naturally in our bodies. From the edible kind, like mushrooms, truffles and yeast, to the ones that infest bathrooms and clothes, like mould and mildew, to the ones that cause skin infections called dermatophytes. The prevalence of infections caused by dermatophytes is particularly high and on the rise in our country. In fact, Indian dermatologists report fungal infections as one of the top issues among their patients.
Yikes! Find out how to recognize the different types below.
Recognising the various types
A fungal infection or in medical speak “mycosis” is a skin disease that can occur anywhere on the body.
The different types of fungal infections are often named according to the locations they occur in.
1. Tinea Corporis (aka Ringworm)
Unlike what the name might suggest, it is not actually caused by a worm, but you guessed it – a fungus! This is characterised by red patches around the trunk and limbs and is highly contagious.
Symptoms: Red or pink round patches that are itchy and scaly.
2. Tinea Cruris (Jock Itch)
Occurs in the groin region and mainly in men. This is often caused by snugly fitted trousers and poor hygiene.
Symptoms: Red itchy round rings in the groin or genital areas
3. Tinea Capitis (Scalp Ringworm)
This contagious infection is found in young children, where the fungus feeds on the keratin found in hair.
Symptoms: Redness and swollen bumps or itchy bald patches. This may be accompanied by dandruff.
4. Tinea Pedis (Athlete’s Foot)
Affects feet skin mainly between the toes but can also affect toenails. Sweaty feet and ill-fitted close shoes enable this infection. It can spread through shared mats and common room floors (think yoga studios or gyms).
Symptoms: Red itchy and crusty patches between the toes
5. Tinea Unguium (Onychomycosis)
Infects both toenails and fingernails, but is mainly seen on toenails. It enters through nail or skin cracks and can cause discolouration and brittle nails.
Symptoms: Thickening, yellow or white discolouration and breaking of nails. May also be painful or smelly…gross!
6. Tinea Versicolour
Regularly found in India, particularly during the summer and monsoon seasons. This is caused by an excess growth of a particular type of yeast called found on the skin’s surface.
Symptoms: Discolouration (usually lighter patches), dryness and itchiness seen on the chest, shoulders and back region.
7. Intertrigo - Not exactly fungus, but a close cousin
Intertrigo is a kind of rash commonly found between skin folds of the armpits, under the breasts or in the groin region. It can be caused by either fungus or bacteria and is often precipitated by friction, heat and moisture.
Symptoms: Red itchy rash in the skin folds surrounded by silver edges. Often with bad odour
Risk Factors and Prevention
Given how wildly common fungal infections are, literally, anyone can contract them. That being said, people with weaker immune systems and chronic diseases (like HIV, cancer, uncontrolled diabetes) have a higher chance of getting infected.
Other risk factors include:
- Poor hygiene
- Warm, moist, ill-ventilated environments
- Excessive perspiration
- Wearing tight clothing and shoes
- Sharing clothes, mats, towels, beds, or workout equipment
- Coming in contact with infected humans or animals
Apart from basic everyday hygiene, here are small steps you can take to avoid getting infected:
- Don’t forget to clean your soles, between your toes and keep feet dry
- Gently clean under your nails and always sanitise your pedicure/manicure tools
- Wear breathable fabrics and comfortable footwear
- Regularly wash your clothes and dry them inside out in the sunlight
- Clean infected clothing separately to avoid spreading the fungus
- Avoid walking barefoot in public areas
- Avoid sharing towels, bed linen and personal care products
- Regularly dust, clean and ventilate all areas of your home
- If you have pets, ensure that they are kept clean and free from fungal infections
Think you might have a fungal infection already? Consult a dermatologist on Veera’s platform today. Some fungal infections are more than just itchy eyesores and can lead to serious problems. Learn more about treating them the right way.
Reviewed by: Dr. Shailly Prasad, MD/MBA, Resident Physician, Obstetrics & Gynecology.
Disclaimer: Content on Veera is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice or as a substitute for medical advice given by a physician or trained professional.