Skin fungus, also known as dermatophytosis, is one of the most common human infectious diseases. Since fungi can survive and exist everywhere in our environment, they generally reach humans through direct contact.
The most common manifestation of fungal infection is fine scaling and itching between the extremities, especially between the fingers. In most cases, it is unilateral and easily treatable. It is important to address it promptly because a unilateral infection can spread to the other extremity, and fungal infection that develops between the fingers can eventually affect the nails, which becomes a more challenging problem requiring longer therapy and may result in nail loss.
Scalp fungal infection usually occurs in childhood and is often transmitted from dogs, cats, and sometimes rodents to humans. It can also be transmitted from person to person. The hair becomes brittle, and areas of hair loss develop, accompanied by scaling of the skin. This is a benign condition that can heal on its own, and the hair loss is usually not permanent.
Beard and mustache fungal infection can occur in adult men. Yellow scaly and pustular nodules appear, which are particularly painful and cause hair loss. It can spread through shared shaving tools and leaves scarring.
In overweight and obese patients, fungal infections can develop in skin folds, primarily in the groin area, armpits, under the breasts, and in the abdominal folds. These infections usually result from yeast overgrowth.
Possible symptoms include skin peeling, itching, itchy red patches, flaky red patches, cracked skin, dry blistered skin surface, hair loss, beard loss, patchy hair loss on the scalp, pustules in the beard, baldness, hair breakage, spots on the nails, yellow nails, crumbly nails, thickened nails, nail deformities.
Generally, the location of the symptoms can already give a clue about the causative agent.
Fungi and their spores are present in large numbers in our environment, but they usually do not cause illness. The healthy human body has a so-called "acid mantle" that inhibits the colonization of fungi due to its acidic pH. Excessive cleanliness, the use of alkaline soaps or cosmetics, wearing synthetic textiles or footwear, obesity, and increased sweating can disrupt the function of the acid mantle. In moist and alkaline environments, fungi can easily multiply.
Fungal infections can afflict large groups of athletes who wear poorly ventilated, closed sports shoes or use communal showers. In such closed communities, the infection rate can reach up to 100% (all members of the group get infected). Prolonged use of certain medications (such as corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, antibiotics) can also contribute to the development of fungal infections. It is also more common in cases where the blood circulation in certain body parts is compromised, such as in thrombosis and lymphedema. Hormonal disorders and conditions can also predispose individuals to fungal infections, including diabetes, the use of contraceptive medications, pregnancy, or adrenal gland disorders.
Experienced healthcare professionals can easily recognize fungal infections and often identify the specific type of fungus involved. Fungal culture can be used to obtain a precise diagnosis of the fungal species. In general, dermatologists with expertise in this area diagnose the condition based on the symptoms and administer appropriate treatment. In cases of recurrent infections or extensive fungal conditions, a detailed examination may be necessary to exclude underlying conditions such as diabetes or immunodeficiency disorders.
Out of the hundreds of thousands of fungal species, only a few are capable of causing infections in humans. These species typically produce specific enzymes or their metabolic byproducts make them suitable for causing infections. Among the various fungal genera, the following four can cause infections in humans:
Antifungal agents for treating fungal infections have advanced significantly in recent decades. There are locally applicable treatments available such as creams, solutions for brushing, and alcoholic solutions, as well as convenient oral medications. By carefully selecting the most appropriate active ingredient and treatment method from the numerous options, symptoms generally subside within a few weeks.