Fungal infections may not sound very pleasant but they are generally straightforward to diagnose and to treat. Common examples include athlete’s foot, ringworm and fungal nail infections.
A fungal nail infection is the cause of around half of all nail problems. Toenails are four times more likely to be affected than fingernails. Adult males are most likely to suffer from this issue.
The infection can involve the root of the nail and the nail bed and can be caused by several different types of fungus. Athlete’s foot can also spread to the nails.
While it may be unpleasant in appearance, a fungal nail infection is unlikely to cause any pain or discomfort. Most cases can be effectively treated using anti-fungal nail paints or tablets. Whichever method is used, it is likely to take some time. A course of tablets can take several months to remedy the condition, while the nail-paint treatment may require up to 12 months for toenails and six months for fingernails.
Ringworm is caused by a type of fungus known as dermatophytes. It has no connection with worms of any form. Rather, the name comes from a ring-like rash that may appear on the skin, although ringworm can also infect the nails and hair.
Human ringworm is infectious and can spread fairly readily. However, it is also possible to catch it from an infected animal, although this is rare.
A GP may need to send away skin, scalp or nail samples to confirm a diagnosis and to ensure that the correct treatment is provided.
The treatment will depend upon which part of the body is affected and the severity of the infection. For serious cases or where large areas of the body are affected, oral anti-fungal medicines may be prescribed. These medicines will also be used to treat scalp ringworm by killing the fungus in the hair shaft wherein creams may be ineffective.
Patients of childbearing age need to be aware that some of these medicines can have side effects on the reproductive system. If ringworm proves difficult to treat, then you may be referred to a dermatologist.
Athlete’s foot is a common complaint which causes the skin on the soles of the feet and between the toes to become dry, scaly, itchy and cracked. It can also cause blisters. You are most likely to pick up the infection in public places such as changing rooms, gyms and showers. The fungus thrives in warm, moist places, shoes being a good example.
Athlete’s foot can normally be treated using anti-fungal lotions, creams or medicated powders. These can be obtained from a pharmacist without a prescription. To prevent the condition returning, continue the treatment for up to two weeks after the symptoms have disappeared. In addition, it is important to regularly wash the feet and to thoroughly dry them, especially between the toes.
If these standard treatments prove to be ineffective, your GP may need to prescribe a stronger cream or an oral anti-fungal tablet.
Remember that fungal skin infections are easily mistaken for other conditions such as eczema or psoriasis. It is therefore important to have a professional diagnosis from your GP or a pharmacist before commencing any treatment.