What Are Fungal Infections?
Fungal infections are caused by an overgrowth of fungi, which are microscopic organisms found in soil, air, water, and both living and nonliving surfaces. These infections are most common on the skin, nails, and mucous membranes, including those found in the mouth, throat, and genitals. Fungal infections can be both mild and serious, although they are rarely life-threatening.
Signs and Symptoms of Fungal Infections
The signs and symptoms of a fungal infection depend on the type and location of the infection. Common signs and symptoms include:
- Skin: Itching, redness, scaling, and/or dryness
- Nails: Thickened nails, discoloration, and/or loosening of the nails from the nail bed
- Mouth: White patches on the inside of the cheeks, tongue, and roof of the mouth
- Genital area: Itching and burning sensation, pain, and rash
- Throat: Hoarseness, sore throat, and/or difficulty swallowing
Treatments for Fungal Infections
Treatment for a fungal infection depends on the type and severity of the infection. Mild infections may be treated with over-the-counter antifungal drugs, while severe infections may require prescription medications. Treatment options include:
- Topical antifungal creams and ointments
- Oral antifungal medications
- Antifungal nail lacquer for nail infections
- Surgery for fungal skin lesions
Prevention Tips for Fungal Infections
Fungal infections are difficult to prevent, but there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk for infection:
- Wash your hands regularly, especially after touching soil, animals, and surfaces that can be contaminated with fungi.
- Avoid sharing items such as towels, socks, shoes, and hairbrushes.
- Keep your feet dry and clean, especially between your toes.
- Keep your nails clean and trimmed.
- Avoid using artificial nails or nail polish, as these can increase your risk for infection.
- Change your socks and underwear daily.
- Clean your dentures regularly.
Is Fungal Infection Dangerous to Health?
Most fungal infections are highly treatable, but they can be dangerous if left untreated. Untreated fungal infections can become severe and contagious, and can spread to other parts of the body. If you think you may have a fungal infection, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor will be able to determine the best course of treatment to help clear up the infection and reduce your risk for further infection.