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What Are the Causes of a Skin Fungus?

An antifungal cream, which can be used to kill skin fungus.
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  • Written By: Natalie M. Smith
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 07 April 2014
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Fungi, a type of primitive vegetable, can be transmitted to humans from various sources including other humans and the air. Skin fungus often poses no risk, but the right conditions, particularly an increase in moisture, can cause it to develop into a fungal infection. These types of skin infections are common, often easily treatable with special creams or pills, and can be prevented with proper hygiene techniques. Individuals with compromised immune systems might require more aggressive treatment, and they are more at risk for having a skin fungal infection develop into a serious internal ailment.

It is common for the human body to host various fungi and fungi-like organisms on its surface. For instance, candida, which can cause problems like diaper rash and yeast infection, resides on the skin and poses no harm unless certain conditions exist. Moisture, tight clothing, and taking antibiotics, which can alter the balance of organisms living on the body, are just some of the factors that can create a suitable environment for skin fungus to grow. This growth is what becomes a fungal infection, often occurring in skin folds and places that tend to perspire. Common fungal infections include athlete's foot, ringworm, and jock itch.

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Skin fungus can come from a variety of sources, and, when it leads to an infection, is often easy to diagnose. Fungi exist in the air, soil, and water, as well as on animals and humans, and any of these sources can transmit fungi to the skin and cause no harm. In addition, those fungal infections that are contagious, like athlete's foot and ringworm, can also be transmitted person to person. Symptoms of infection often include itching, redness, or rash, and an examination or culture of the infected site can be used to determine which skin fungus is the cause.

Fungal infections can generally be treated at home. For instance, over-the-counter topical antifungal creams alleviate athlete's foot, ringworm, and jock itch, as well as diaper rash and vaginal yeast infections. Stronger prescription medications might be required if the infection is severe. Oral medications are sometimes prescribed to those with severe infections or compromised immune systems, such as diabetics and HIV patients. Symptoms that do not respond to medications, last more than a few days, or worsen should be reviewed by a doctor, because a fungal infection can eventually enter the bloodstream and cause a more serious systemic infection.

There are plenty of ways to prevent skin fungus growth and decrease the risk of contracting a contagious fungal infection. They include keeping feet and groin areas clean and dry, wearing laundered cloths made of breathable fabrics, avoiding the sharing of personal items, and wearing shower shoes in public bathing and pool areas. Medicated powders and similar products can also be used to keep the feet dry, but those designed for the groin area should be used with caution, as they can actually increase infections, especially in women.

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