Fungal skin diseases
Fungi are an independent group of organisms whose members don’t have chlorophyll, and thus no ability to conduct photosynthesis, that is, they can’t synthesize nutritional substances, which makes them live like saprophytes or plant, animal and human parasites. They are different from higher plants by their structure, nutrition and reproduction. They are everywhere in nature: on land, in the water and air. Also, contact with infected pets (dog, cat) or domestic animals can lead to the transmission of the types of fungi called zoophiles. It is usually considered that the significance of the fungi is a bit smaller in relation to the bacteria or viruses, but the distribution of fungal infections of the skin and nails is actually very large, and in immunosuppressed persons systemic mycosis can significantly impair health.
Number of persons suffering from fungal infections, primarily at the feet and groin region, is rising significantly, even in countries with developed general health culture. For example, dermatophytes (a group of fungi) infections alone are 10 – 20% of all the visits to the dermatologists.
Fungal infections are noticed equally in all age groups. It is necessary to distinguish between the fungal infection of the skin and the infection that spreads on the nails also. And, it is very important to know the difference between the fungal infections that spread on the skin covered with hair, because in that case the therapy lasts longer. Usually, fungal infections of the body skin start with oval redness, which spreads peripherally, has pronounced edges and scales moderately. Also, one of the common forms of infection is scaling and moistening between the fingers of the feet which is often seen in persons who play sports or have increased sweating of the feet – athletic foot. A special form of a fungal infection, pityriasis versicolor, is seen in the form of oval, light brown and reddish spots on the skin of the trunk and hands. Remaining whitish spots after the therapy can cause confusion in patients that the treatment was unsuccessful. It is only necessary for some time to pass, for the skin to regain its pigmentation. On the nails, the fungal infection looks like thickening and crumbling of the nail plate, which becomes dilapidated and yellowish, and in time the infection spreads from one nail to the others.
Treating fungal diseases
Treating fungal diseases depends on the type of fungi, localization, the age of the patient, etc. For skin infection, antimycotic creams or shampoos are used. Very often, when it comes to fungal infection of the nails, a pill or capsule therapy is unavoidable. Especial difficulty in diagnosis and later treatment of fungal infections is the application of corticosteroids. Applying this type of therapy leads to temporary withdrawal of skin changes, but later also to spreading and affecting deeper structure of the skin (so called tinea incognito – hidden fungal infection).
The best ways to prevent the occurrence of fungal diseases
- Regular implementation of hygiene measures one of which is the prevention of increased sweating.
- In public places (pools, sports clubs, hotel rooms, common showers etc) you shouldn’t walk barefoot. At pools and public beaches: go to the edge of the pool in appropriate plastic or rubber footwear, after leaving the water put the shoes on immediately, without standing with your foot at the edge of the pool; shower in appropriate footwear.
- Wear open footwear and light and wide clothing in summer.
- Never wear other people’s footwear.
Fungal infection is more common in people who are overweight, due to slopes that are exposed to the moist environment. Reduction in body mass will decrease the possibility of fungal infections.
If you notice hair loss in pets or domesticated animals talk to a veterinarian – that may be a sign of fungal infection in animals.
If redness or skin peeling appears, talk to a dermatologist, because a pharmacy can very easily prescribe a corticosteroid ointment which can mask the infection, and then the changes in the skin will pale but the infection will still spread.
Spec. Dr. Svetlana Djurisic, dermatologist
Dermatological clinic DERMATIM, Belgrade, Serbia