Fungal infections of the
skin most commonly affect the feet, groin, scalp, or nails. Fungi grow
best in warm, moist areas of the skin such as between toes, in the groin
area, and under breasts. If infection occurs in an area where hair
grows, such as the scalp, hair loss may occur.
Athlete's foot (tinea
pedis) is the
most common fungal skin infection. Symptoms include intense itching,
cracks, blisters, redness, and scaling on the soles of the feet, and
peeling, moist areas between the toes. It often recurs and must be
treated again each time.
Jock itch (tinea
redness, scaling, severe itching, and moistness on the skin of the groin
and upper thighs. There are usually red, scaly, raised areas on the skin
that weep or ooze pus or clear fluid.
Fungal nail infections
cause discoloration, thickening, and often softening of the fingernails
and toenails. Often a build-up of yellow debris develops under the free
edge of the nail. These infections are difficult to treat and often
cause permanent damage to the nails. If treatment with medication does
not work, the nail may have to be removed. Some other infections cause
inflammation of the nail bed or
the tissue adjacent to the nail. Without treatment, these can lead to
serious complications, including more widespread infection.
Keep feet clean and dry. Dry between the toes after swimming or bathing,
and apply absorbent powder (Micatin, Zeasorb).
Wear leather shoes or sandals that allow your feet to
"breathe" and wear cotton socks to absorb sweat.
Use powder on your feet and in your shoes.
Give shoes 24 hours to dry between wearings.
Do not go barefoot in public pools and showers. Wear thongs or shower
Wash and dry the groin area well, especially after exercise, and apply
powder to absorb moisture.
Wear cotton underclothes and avoid tight pants and pantyhose.
Don't share hats, shoes, combs, or hairbrushes.
Follow the prevention guidelines above.
For athlete's foot and jock itch, use an over-the-counter antifungal
powder or lotion such as Lotrimin AF or Micatin. Use the medication for
a week or two after the symptoms clear up to prevent recurrence. Do not
use hydrocortisone on a fungal infection.
Consider wearing cotton socks, and change them twice a day to keep your
If possible, wear open sandals. When indoors, go in stocking feet.
When to Call a
If signs of infection are present: increased swelling and redness, pus,
or a honey-colored crust on the rash.
If you have diabetes and develop athlete's foot. People with diabetes
are at increased risk of infection and may need professional care.
If home treatment fails to clear up athlete's foot or jock itch after
If there is sudden hair loss associated with flaking, broken hairs, and
inflammation of the scalp; or if several household members suddenly
start losing their hair.