Fungal Disease

February 2, 2017

Fungal diseases are usually caused by common fungi found in our environment, including the soil, plants, trees, and even on our skin and other parts of the body. Fungal diseases are called mycoses and those affecting humans can be divided into four groups based on the level of penetration into the body tissues. Mild fungal skin diseases can look like a rash and are very common. Fungal diseases in the lungs are often similar to other illnesses such as the flu or tuberculosis. Some fungal diseases like fungal meningitis and bloodstream infections are less common than skin and lung infections but can be deadly.

Anybody can be infected. People who work around animals and livestock are at greater risk for ringworm. People who frequently use public showers and locker rooms, such as at gymnasiums and fitness centers, are at increased risk for athlete’s foot, and males who wear tight-fitting clothing or who have athlete’s foot are at increased risk for jock itch.

Fungi are everywhere—as moulds, they grow in homes and on foods; as yeasts, they are found in foods and in our bodies. Even mushrooms are classified as fungi—although most of them are quite harmless. Whatever form fungi take, they survive by breaking down organic matter. Only 180 of the 250,000 known species of fungi can cause disease in people.

There are a number of different types of infections caused by fungi, including –

  • Superficial infections – These fungal infections affect the skin or mucous membranes. Superficial fungal infections (e.g., yeast vaginitis, oral thrush, and athletes foot) affect millions of people worldwide. Although rarely life-threatening, they can have debilitating effects on a person’s quality of life and may in some cases spread to other people or become invasive (systemic). Most superficial fungal infections are easily diagnosed and can be treated effectively.
  • Systemic infections – These occur when fungi get into the bloodstream and generally cause more serious diseases. Systemic fungal infections may be caused either by an opportunistic organism that attacks a person with a weakened immune system, or by an invasive organism that is common in a specific geographic area, such as cocci and histoplasma. Unlike superficial infections, systemic fungal infections can be life-threatening.
  • Opportunistic infections – As previously noted, the fungi attack people with weakened immune systems. These can be either systemic or superficial infections.


Common Diseases Causes by Fungi

Candidia Infection – This infection is caused by yeasts that belong to the genus Candida. The most common species is Candida albicans. The common i=symptoms include – Thrush (Oral Candidiasis), Vaginal Yeast Infections (Genital Candidiasis), Bloodstream Candidiasis (Invasive Candidiasis).

Aspergillus Infection – Aspergillus molds spread in the air and cause serious infections in the lungs and blood of people with weak immune systems, such as those with cancer, HIV, or bone marrow recipients. Symptoms include – coughing, wheezing and fever

Fungal Meningitis This fungal infection is caused by Cryptococcus, which leads to inflammation of the thin membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. A common life-threatening condition that affects many HIV patients, infection is usually acquired through inhalation of fungal cells in the air. These organisms usually thrive in the body of people whose immune systems are weakened. Symptoms include drowsiness, headaches, and confusion.

Jock Itch – This common skin infection, also known as tinea cruris, is caused by fungi called tinea. This fungus lives in warm and moist areas like the genitals, buttocks, and the inner thighs. Infections frequently occur in summer as well as in warm and wet climates. It causes red, itchy rashes that are ring-shaped. Symptoms include itching, burning, redness, peeling, flaking or cracked skin.

Ringworm – Ringworm is a common skin infection that is caused by a fungus. It’s called “ringworm” because it can cause a circular rash (shaped like a ring) that is usually red and itchy. Patches of raised skin sores may overlap and skin may appear scaly. The fungal infection may spread through direct contact with skin of an infected person and indirectly through contaminated objects such as clothes or furniture.

Athlete’s Foot – This common fungal infection is also known as tinea pedis, which causes redness, itching, peeling, blisters, burning, and sores on the foot. The fungus favors warm and moist environments such as socks, shoes, locker rooms, swimming pools, and public showers. Infection is common in summer or in warm and humid climates. The fungus lives on dead tissues of the toenails, skin, and hair.

Coccidioidomycosis (Valley Fever) – Caused by Coccidioides, a fungus found in the soil of dry, low rainfall areas. It is common in the southwestern U.S., Mexico, and Central and South America.

Causes of Fungal Diseases

The types of microorganisms that lead to the different fungal infections vary, as do the factors that trigger off their overgrown and invasion of the body. A type of fungus known as Tinea is what leads to Athlete’s Foot, Ringworm and Jock Itch. However, other common fungal infections, such as vaginal yeast, oral thrush and fungal gastroenteritis are a result of the overgrowth of the Candida Albicans fungus. In case you happen to inhale fungal spores, you could be susceptible to a fungal infection in the lungs. The factors that can lead to such fungal infections are many and include:

  • Antibiotics – It is not just the disease-causing bacteria that die when you take any kind of antibiotics; some of the healthy bacteria in your body may also get killed because of them. This could lead to an imbalance in the microorganisms that are present in your mouth, intestines, vagina, and so on. This results in an overgrowth of the Candida Albicans fungi.
  • Weakened Immune System – In case you have a compromised immune system because of conditions such as AIDS/ HIV, you are more prone to infections and diseases, including fungal infections. Even those who do not have a strong immune system, because they are too young or too old, may end up getting fungal infections more often, as compared to the others.
  • Diabetes – This condition allows the Candida fungi to flourish within a body, often leading to an overgrowth.
  • Lack of Hygiene – Those who do not follow adequate hygienic measures like washing hands at regular intervals, taking a shower every day or wearing fresh clothing are highly vulnerable to fungal infections.
  • Personal Contact – You could easily contract a fungal infection through contact with someone who is already infected. Apart from personal physical contact, this could also occur in case you share linens, clothes, utensils, combs, shoes or other personal items with an infected person.
  • Clothing – Men and women who wear tight-fitting clothing, such as jeans, thongs, underwear and so on may get fungal infections quite often

Fungal infections can also be passed from a pregnant woman to her baby, during the birthing process.


Common Symptoms of Fungal Diseases

Although the symptoms produced by infection with different types of fungi varies, these infections generally cause itching, reddened skin, and inflammation. Some superficial skin infections are mild and produce few or no symptoms. Others are more irritating. Fungal infections are rarely life threatening, but they may cause considerable discomfort or embarrassment.

Fungal rashes are sometimes confused with other skin conditions, such as psoriasis and eczema.

Fungal skin infections can cause a variety of different skin rashes. Some are red, scaly and itchy. Others may produce a fine scale, similar to dry skin. The fungus can affect just one area, or several areas of your body. If you get a fungal infection of your scalp, you may lose some hair.




Antifungal Medicines – Antifungal medicines are used in several ways, depending on your specific fungal infection. Main types of antifungal medicines include –

  • Topical antifungals – applied directly to the skin, hair or nails
  • Oral antifungals – which are swallowed in capsule, pill or liquid form
  • Intravenous The antifungals – which are injected into your bloodstream
  • Intravaginal antifungal pessaries – small, soft tablets inserted into the vagina to treat conditions such as vaginal thrush

There are many different types of antifungal medicines, Many of these brands contain the same generic antifungal ingredients (alone or in combination). Some of the most common include –

  • Clotrimazole
  • Econazole
  • Miconazole
  • Terbinafine
  • Fluconazole
  • Ketoconazole
  • Amphotericin

Side effects of oral antifungals include nausea, gastrointestinal distress, diarrhea, abdominal pain, skin rashes, headache, and fatigue. Typically, a small number of patients taking these medications have one of these unusual reactions. If the side effects are bothersome or create concern, the drug can be discontinued. The doctor may order a blood test to check liver function, especially during long-term therapy, if the patient has an already weakened liver, or is using high doses of medication.


Alternative Medicines

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