All You Need to Know about Fungal Skin Infections

November 18, 2022

Skin infections caused by fungi (or mycoses) are often annoying, but rarely serious. 

Fungal infections may appear anywhere on the body but are especially persistent in feet, nails, and fingers. 

In the following article, we will discuss various fungal infections and how to prevent them. 

Why are fungal infections so persistent?

In hair and nails, the effect of the fungus is so profound that the topicals applied (gels, creams, powders, sprays) are not enough to eliminate the infection completely; they improve but reappear in a short time.

The type of antifungal treatment chosen must also be taken into account because some stop the growth of the fungus but do not kill it (fungistatic), while others do kill it completely (fungicides).

As for prevention, we must first be aware of the conditions that predispose us to fungal infections: humidity, excessive sweating, intensive sports practice, and unsuitable professional footwear (boots, reinforced footwear)

The most important thing is to:

  • Maintain proper foot hygiene.

  • Eliminate contact with sources of contagion.

  • Control excess perspiration.

  • Wear good footwear.

  • Do not interrupt treatment.

And, in case you have it, manage the associated disease (infection, diabetic ulcer).

How to get rid of persistent sole fungal infections (athlete's foot)?

The skin of the sole is much thicker than that of the spaces between the toes (interdigital), which is where most fungal infections of the feet occur (the popularly called athlete's foot).

This characteristic makes it somewhat more difficult for creams and other antifungal products applied to the skin to treat fungus to penetrate and perform their function.

This, of course, determines the treatment. For example, when we are faced with "moccasin" ringworm (thicker skin on the sole with red spots that can go up towards the sides, hence the name moccasin) we must often resort to oral treatments that are usually combined with topical medications.

It is not that they are more resistant to fungi, but they simply affect an area where the skin is thicker and this makes healing more difficult.

The time it takes for the fungus to disappear varies depending on the infection extension and time of evolution of the lesions. Even with adequate treatment, they may take more than a month to heal.

As it is usually a long treatment, it is vital to follow the specialist's advice.

Sometimes it is necessary to change strategy. If the lesions persist, it may be advisable to perform a skin culture test to determine the specific origin of the infection or to evaluate other diagnostic options.

To avoid finding yourself in this situation again, take extreme precautions:

  • Choose breathable footwear

  • Always try to dry your skin well

  • Avoid excessive sweating

  • Do not walk barefoot in public areas

How can I get rid of stubborn fungal nail infections?

The same fungus that affects your feet can later affect your nails. Foot fungus or tinea interdigitalis is very common: 10% of the population suffers from it. 

In the contagion, there are other important factors, such as individual immunity, which is both the immune system in general and the skin barrier (if there is a wound or maceration, it is easier for the fungus to penetrate).

Nail involvement is known as onychomycosis and can affect 14% of the population. Trauma in the area, diabetes, vascular insufficiency, and immune system alterations are some of the predisposing factors to this infection.

Nail fungus is much more difficult to treat than foot fungus because topical treatments (lotions and creams) are not quite effective. To get results, you need to use antifungal oral medications for six months. 

If there are no contraindications, oral treatment is much more effective. It should be maintained for at least three months and wait for the nail to grow and the fungus to be progressively eliminated.

What about the untreated white fungal spots on the skin?

Pityriasis versicolor is a superficial skin infection caused by a yeast-like fungus of the genus Malassezia which is a regular resident of the skin flora. Therefore, it is not considered contagious, and no special precautions regarding hygiene or contact with other people are necessary.

However, it can sometimes proliferate excessively if the conditions are favorable: when there is a lot of humidity and sweating, but also in the case of diabetes, or if the defenses are weakened.

When this occurs, they cause round or oval spots, with fine desquamation and variable coloration (hence the name, versicolor) that can range from white or pink to brown.

These spots are mainly located on the upper back and shoulders. They rarely appear on the face.

Diagnosis is usually straightforward, and no special tests are needed, although, in case of doubt, a biopsy can be made after scraping the scales.

Treatment is not strictly necessary, at least in the most localized cases, but patients often ask for it when the spots are extensive or cause symptoms such as itching.

Although it is a completely trivial disorder, with more aesthetic repercussions than anything else, in most cases clear (hypopigmented) marks persist for long periods after healing.

In addition, it has a marked tendency to reappear with humidity or heat. That is why this infection is more common in the summer months.

Is there a link between diabetes and fungal infections?

Yes, there is, but these infections can be prevented. Diabetes is a chronic disorder characterized by high blood glucose levels and altered carbohydrate and lipid metabolism.

High blood sugar predisposes to the development of metabolic and immunological disturbances, which make patients more "sensitive" to skin infections. In addition, its higher pH, the alteration of the small vessels that nourish it, and the disruption of the peripheral nerves favor the appearance of problems.

Any infection in a diabetic person may have a worse prognosis, and those of bacterial origin tend to recur frequently. There may also be more Candida fungal infections, which affect the mucous membranes (mouth, corners of the mouth, and genital area) and large skin folds, as well as other types of fungi (dermatophytes) between the fingers and on the nails.

The best prevention is to control blood sugar levels (with diet, moderate exercise, and specific treatments) and to keep the skin clean with mild soaps, hydrate, and dry the skin well after showering. 

Fungus on the abdomen: is there any remedy to eliminate it?

When faced with a fungal infection, it is important to shower and dry thoroughly every day and keep the skin as dry and fresh as possible. It is also advisable to avoid tight clothes and to watch out for excess weight, as skin folds favor this type of infection. To eliminate them, the following medicinal plants can help you:

  • Pink trumpet tree (Tabebuia avellanedae). It is one of the leading plants used in fungal infection treatments. The decoction of its bark is used for washing or applied in gauze soaked in the affected area, 1 to 2 times a day.

  • Oregano (Origanum vulgare). Its essential oil is a powerful fungicide for external use. Mix a drop of oregano essential oil with five drops of almond oil and apply 1 to 3 times a day on the affected area.

  • Walnut (Juglans regia). It is another alternative in the natural treatment of fungi. Its leaves are used in decoction for washing with sterile gauze, 1 to 3 times a day.

The following supplements can also combat fungal infections:

  • Probiotics. Fungal infections may be related to low defenses and intestinal bacterial flora imbalance. Probiotics provide that balance. You can find them in yogurts and fermented foods, although in some cases, it is necessary to use more concentrated commercial preparations.

  • Coconut and tea tree oil. It is an effective combination to treat fungal skin infections. It is prepared with 50 ml of coconut oil (slightly heated in a water bath), with 20 drops of tea tree essential oil, to be applied twice a day on the affected area.

Final Word

Fungal infections can be annoying, stubborn, and resistant to medical treatments, so the most important thing is to prevent them rather than treat them. 

Loose clothing and comfortable footwear, regular hygiene, skin moisturizing, and natural remedies are the best ways to keep fungal infections away from your skin.