Fungal Infections: Types, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatments

2022-12-07 16:31:20 By : Ms. chunlin du

Vanessa Caceres is a nationally published health journalist with over 15 years of experience covering medical topics including eye health, cardiology, and more.

Jurairat J. Molina, MD, MBA is a board-certified allergist who has been practicing in field of allergy and clinical immunology for the past two decades. 

A fungus is a type of organism that lives in soil, air, and plants. A fungus can also live in or on the human body—for example, on the skin. Fungal infections are caused by fungi (the plural word for fungus). Some fungal infections are contagious. Many fungal infections are not serious, but some can be harmful.

This article will take a look at the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of some of the most common types of fungal infections.

A fungal infection is an infection caused by a fungus. In everyday life, some examples of fungi are mold and mushrooms. However, these fungi do not cause infections. There are millions of types of fungi, but only a small percentage can make people sick.

Fungal infections are passed when you inhale or come into contact with the spores from a fungus. The spores can also land on the skin. Some fungi can reproduce through spores. Fungal infections commonly start on the skin or in the lungs.

A weakened immune system or taking certain medicines that make the immune system weaker (such as cancer or organ transplant drugs) can make you more prone to fungal infections.

The potential symptoms of fungal infections vary depending on the type of infection and the location of the infection. Generally speaking, symptoms of fungal infections may include:

Many fungal infections only will cause skin-related symptoms. The symptoms of fungal infection can be similar to other health problems, so it's important to talk to your healthcare provider and get a diagnosis.

A vaginal yeast infection is frequently caused by a common fungus called Candida albicans. This fungus is present in small amounts in the digestive tract, mouth, skin, and vagina. Normally, Candida albicans are present in the vagina along with other germs. Sometimes, the candida will reproduce quickly, causing a yeast infection.

Risk factors that make getting a vaginal yeast infection more likely include using antibiotics (which can disrupt the balance of fungi and other germs in the vagina), having diabetes, and being pregnant.

Symptoms of a yeast infection include:

A healthcare provider can diagnose a yeast infection by doing a pelvic exam. During this exam, the provider will look for swelling and redness as well as dry, white spots on the vaginal wall. Your provider also may take a sample of vaginal discharge to look at using a microscope. There might be other tests done to help rule out other potential causes of your symptoms.

Many of the medicines for vaginal yeast infections are available over the counter (OTC). Medicines for vaginal yeast infections include:

Medications for vaginal yeast infections come in many forms, including:

The amount of time you should take these medicines may vary from one to seven days. It is usually OK to use OTC treatments for a vaginal yeast infection if you:

If you are pregnant or this is your first time having a yeast infection, see a health provider for further guidance.

A yeast infection does not usually lead to other problems and may go away on its own. If your symptoms do not go away after treatment, let your provider know. They can recommend further treatment or rule out other causes of your symptoms.

Jock itch is a fungal infection that appears:

It often occurs in athletes because the type of fungus that causes jock itch grows on warm, slightly wet skin. The tighter clothing commonly worn for sports, along with wet, warm skin, creates the right environment for jock itch to grow and spread.

Jock itch is more common in males but can also occur in females.

Although jock itch is not serious, it can be very uncomfortable. Symptoms include:

Jock itch can be diagnosed through a physical exam by your provider. They may ask if you've been to places where jock itch more commonly spreads, such as public shower facilities at gyms or athletic locker rooms.

There are over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal creams and powders for jock itch. Follow any directions on how to use the creams or powders.

Take additional steps to prevent jock itch in the future, such as completely drying the area around your genitals and wearing clothes that are clean and dry after you've spent time in a public shower facility.

See a provider if your symptoms persist after using an OTC jock itch cream or powder.

Athlete's foot (tinea pedis) is caused by a fungus that typically occurs in the spaces between the toes. It's often caused by damp surfaces in locker room floors, showers, and swimming pools.

The symptoms of athlete's foot are felt in between the toes and include:

A healthcare provider can often diagnose athlete's foot by looking at it. Sometimes, a provider may scrape a small sample to examine in a lab or to look at under a microscope.

There are OTC treatments for mild athlete's foot such as:

A more serious infection may require prescription medication that is available as a pill or applied directly to the skin.

To help prevent recurring athlete's foot, there are special medicated foot powders and sprays. There are also medicated foot powder and sprays that you can use over time to help prevent athlete's foot.

Whatever you use, continue treatment for as long as recommended, even if the rash seems to be getting better. If you stop using the treatment, the infection can come back. It's also helpful to keep your feet dry and wear flip-flops or waterproof protective footwear when you are in locker rooms or pool areas.

Aspergillosis is caused by Aspergillus, a mold that can live both indoors and outdoors. Most people breathe in Aspergillus regularly without problems, but it can be a problem for people with lung disease or people who have a weakened immune system.

Some types of aspergillosis are mild, but other types can be serious.

The symptoms of aspergillosis depend on the type you have. For instance, the symptoms associated with allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) are similar to the symptoms of asthma and include:

Invasive aspergillosis is a type of aspergillosis that can happen in people who already have other medical conditions. This type affects the lungs at first, then spreads to other parts of the body. Symptoms of invasive aspergillosis include:

It can be difficult to determine which symptoms are related to invasive aspergillosis and which are from a medical condition the person already has.

A healthcare provider can do several things to help diagnose aspergillosis, including:

The treatment for aspergillosis depends on the type. For ABPA or allergic Aspergillus sinusitis, your provider may prescribe Sporanox (itraconazole ) and corticosteroids.

For invasive aspergillosis, Vfend (voriconazole ) is a common treatment. However, your provider may consider using other types of medicines. If you are taking medications that suppress your immune system, you might be asked to stop using them or reduce their use while you are taking medications for invasive aspergillosis.

Despite its name, ringworm is not a worm. It's a type of fungal skin infection that earned its name because of the ring-shaped rash that it can cause. The fungi that cause ringworm are present on surfaces, skin, and household items like towels and bedding.

Ringworm can have a different name depending on where it's located on the body. For example, ringworm on the feet is more commonly called athlete's foot, and in the groin area, it's called jock itch.

Other places where ringworm can occur include:

A provider typically can diagnose ringworm by looking at the rash and checking for its telltale pattern. Sometimes, a provider may scrape a sample of the affected skin to send to the lab to be checked.

Some forms of ringworm infection, such as jock itch or athlete's foot, can be treated with OTC creams or powders. You should let your provider know if you've followed the instructions on these products but your infection is not getting better or is getting worse.

Ringworm on the scalp requires prescription anti-fungal medication taken orally for one to three months. Some of the medications used for ringworm on the scalp include:

Toenail fungus can easily spread from one nail on your foot to the others. It also can occur on the nails of your hand.

Like other types of fungal infections, toenail fungal infections can more easily develop in a warm, moist environment like around a pool or in a locker room. Having wet nails for a long time, including wearing sweaty shoes for a long time every day, also creates the right environment for toenail fungus to develop.

Symptoms of toenail fungus or nail fungus in general include:

A provider can diagnose a fungal nail infection by looking at the nails and asking questions about your symptoms. A provider may take a sample from the nail to look at under a microscope.

It can be hard to get rid of a fungal nail infection. Treatment may take a few months to a year to work.

Prescription anti-fungal pills are usually the most effective treatment for fungal nail infections. In severe cases, your provider may remove the nail.

It is best to start treatment early on to prevent the infection from spreading to other nails or to someone else. If you have diabetes, you are more prone to develop sores that do not heal if you have a fungal nail infection. This could lead to other serious health problems.

Thrush is a type of yeast infection that occurs on the tongue, the lining of the mouth, and the throat. It's caused by a type of fungus called Candida. It most often occurs in newborns and adults who have certain health conditions.

In newborns, symptoms of thrush include:

In adults, thrush can cause sores in the mouth and trouble swallowing.

A healthcare provider can usually diagnose thrush by looking at the mouth or throat. A provider may sometimes take a sample for further testing.

The typical treatment for thrush is an anti-fungal medicine applied inside the mouth for one to two weeks. These treatments include:

For a more severe infection, Diflucan (fluconazole) given orally or through a vein can be used.

There are certain factors that can make a person more likely to develop a fungal infection. These include:

While you can't prevent all fungal infections, here are a few tips to lower your chances of developing one.

See a healthcare provider for a fungal infection if:

Fungal infections can be mild or serious. By starting treatment early, you can cut the risk of the infection spreading further.

Fungal infections vary. Although there are millions of types of fungi, only a few cause problems for your health. Some types of fungal infections include:

Symptoms of these infections vary, but many types of fungal infections cause skin symptoms like an itchy rash, cracked skin, or red skin. Fungal infections often have OTC treatments, but some require prescription medication.

It's not pleasant to think about having a fungal infection, but these infections are very common. By getting the right diagnosis and treatment, you can help your body heal more quickly. Take preventive steps when possible to cut your chances of developing a fungal infection.

Symptoms of fungus in the body vary depending on the type of fungal infection. Some common symptoms include an itchy rash, scaly skin, or discharge.

The best medicine for fungal infection is an anti-fungal medication. However, the specific type of anti-fungal will depend on the type of fungal infection you have. There are many different types of medicines and forms of medicine, such as creams, lotions, and pills. Follow any instructions from a provider about the best type and form of medication for your fungal infection.

You may not be able to tell if a rash is fungal or bacterial on your own. It's best to be examined and diagnosed by a healthcare provider.

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By Vanessa Caceres Vanessa Caceres is a nationally published health journalist with over 15 years of experience covering medical topics including eye health, cardiology, and more.

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