A Few Species Account For Most Skin Fungus Infections

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The human body is host to an untold number of microorganisms all the time. Some live in the digestive system while others flourish on the mucous membranes and the skin. This diversity of microbial life is normal and usually not harmful. However, when particular species of single celled organisms proliferate, they can cause unpleasant and uncomfortable symptoms. Skin fungus is a very common affliction for people of all ages. A fungal infestation can last for many years unless it is treated. The appropriate therapy depends on both the type and location of the infection.

Tinea

This is a skin condition caused by several species of skin fungus including Trichophyton rubrum (the most common) and Microsporum canis. These fungi cause a variety of skin symptoms including pustules, scaliness, rash, oozing lesions, hair loss, and dandruff. T. tonsurans is spread from one human to another while M. canis can be contracted from cats. Tinea fungal infections caused by these pathogens may be diagnosed as ailments commonly called jock itch, athlete’s foot, and ring worm.

The specific medical name given to each type of tinea is based on the area of the body affected – not on the organism causing the infection. For example, tinea corporis refers to a fungal infection on the body. Here’s an overview of what the other names mean:

• Capitis – scalp
• Pedis – feet
• Manuum – hands
• Faciei – face
• Cruris – groin
• Unguium – nails

Treatment Options

A swab may need to be taken to determine which species of fungus is responsible for a patient’s symptoms (or to rule out other causes). This can be helpful in determining exactly which anti-fungal will be most effective. With infections on most parts of the body, a topical ointment or cream is sufficient to kill the fungi. However, if fungus is on the scalp it may be present deep in the hair follicles where topical treatments may not penetrate fully. In these situations, a systemic anti-fungal drug must be prescribed to eliminate the microbes. Similar treatment is prescribed when fungus is growing under the nails (a condition called onychomycosis). Parts of the infected nail may also need to be chemically or surgically removed to promote faster healing. Fungal infections on the body often clear after a few weeks of treatment. However, those under the nails may take many months – even as long as a year – to fully resolve.

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