Fungal Skin and Nail Infections

Fungal infections affect the skin, the nails, and the hair (or scalp). The common factor is a substance known as Keratin, for it is in dead Keratin where fungal infections grow. The majority of common fungal infections are caused by two types of fungi, namely dermatophytes and yeasts

The most common forms of dermatophytes fungal infections

  • Athlete’s foot (medical name – Tinea Pedis)
  • Nail infections (medical name – Tinea unguium)
  • Ringworm in the body (medical name – Tinea corporis)
  • Ringworm in the groin (medical name – Tinea cruris)
  • Ringworm in the scalp (medical name – Tinea capitis)

Athlete’s foot (medical name – Tinea Pedis

Approximately one out of every five people here in the UK suffers from athlete’s foot. It’s a disease caused by dermatophyte fungi that grows in any warm and damp areas of your skin. The most usual place it materialises is in between your toes. The infection causes your skin to become inflamed, itchy and flaky. It often also causes white cracks to manifest themselves in between your toes and along the side of your foot. Less commonly, it can also cause blisters to form.

You can contract athlete’s foot by walking on damp floors which have become contaminated by others already suffering from the condition. Typical examples of the types of areas we are talking about are things like communal showers, saunas and swimming pools.

If you do have athlete’s foot it’s important that you should wash your hands after touching a contaminated area, as it can spread to other areas of the body.

Nail infections (medical name – Tinea unguium)

Nail infections can materialise in both fingernails and toenails. It is less common in the fingernails as hands tend to be dried more thoroughly because of their exposure to the air. Toenails on the other hand, are enclosed inside socks, hose and shoes and unless properly dried with a towel after washing, can remain warm and damp for some time. Nail infections often result from an athlete’s foot infection.

Nail infections usually take quite a long time to develop. In most instances the infection starts at the edge of the nail, gradually spreading downwards towards the base of the nail. The infection causes the nail to discolour, becoming thick and crumbly; in fact, if allowed to develop, nail infections the infected nail can become so thick that wearing shoes is painful.

As well as being caused by the athlete’s foot, a nail infection can also develop if the nail in question is rather weak, or has previously suffered some sort of trauma.

Ringworm of the body (medical name – Tinea corporis)                  

Ringworm of the body, usually affects exposed parts of the body, including the arms, legs, or face. It causes a red rash that appears in the shape of a ring. It is contagious. You can become infected by touching the infected body parts of another person, or by coming into contact with other items infected people have contaminated, such as items of clothing or bedding.

Certain domesticated animals carry the fungi that cause ringworm. These animals include cattle, sheep, and pets.

Ringworm in the groin (medical name – Tinea cruris)

Ringworm of the groin is sometimes known as “jock itch” as it is more prevalent in young men. It is caused by the scrotum being in close proximity to the thigh, which can create the warm, damp conditions in which dermatophyte fungi can thrive. Women can also develop ringworm of the groin when they wear tight fitting clothes.

Ringworm of the groin causes an itchy red rash in the groin and surrounding area. As with ringworm of the body, ringworm of groin is contagious and can be passed on through direct contact with an infected part of the body, including feet already infected with athlete’s foot.

Ringworm of the scalp (medical name – Tinea capitis)

Although this can occur at any age it is most prevalent in young people before they reach puberty. It normally develops in patches and symptoms are similar to those of other forms of ringworm whereby the infected skin becomes itchy and scaly. It is also possible that “kerions” may develop. Kerions are pus-infected areas that can cause the hair to fall out, leaving bald spots. Once the infection has passed hair usually re-grows.

Ringworm of the scalp can easily be contracted through sharing a comb or brush with a contaminated person, or by coming into contact with items of clothing that had been previously contaminated.

Fungal skin infections caused by yeast

Some fungal skin infections can be caused by yeast, the most notorious of which is probably Candida Albicans, which causes Thrush. As mentioned earlier, Thrush is dealt with on a different page here on the Broadgate GP Clinic London Wall website.

Intertrigo- yeast skin infection

Intertrigo is a specific yeast infection that often develops in the folds of your skin, such as the tucks of flesh in the abdomen in obese people. As with Thrush, the cause is the Candida Albicans fungi. Nine times out of ten Intertrigo manifests itself, where skin rubs together and usually results in that skin chafing.

When people have Intertrigo the infected skin usually turns either red or brown. When the infected skin remains moist, (typically because of perspiration); the skin may begin to break down.

Pityriasis versicolor (medical name – Tinea versicolor)

This type of skin infection is caused by a particular type of yeast known as Malassezia. It is quite prevalent in young adults who have reached puberty. It affects the back, the upper arms, and the torso, resulting in skin becoming discoloured; turning scaly and itchy. With darker skinned people it may cause the infected area of skin to lose some of its colour.

If you work in London and you suspect you may have a fungal skin infection, why not call into Broadgate walkin clinic London Wall for one of our GP consultations? A quick visual examination can usually confirm the diagnosis, although with toenail fungal infections, the clinician may suggest taking some cuttings of the infected nail for analysis.

Treating fungal skin infections at Broadgate Clinic London Wall

There are several treatments available, from topical creams, ointments and powders, to paint-on treatments for toe and fingernail infections; or in some cases, a course of anti-fungal tablets may be recommended. Whatever treatment you are recommended, it can be purchased over the counter at Broadgate Clinic London Wall. Depending on the nature of the fungal infection you have, you may need to take repeat treatments anywhere for 4 weeks to 12months.