Fungal infections of the skin are common. Many fungi and yeast live on human skin without causing disease, but when these organisms become overgrown, or when new, less common organisms settle in, a rash can develop.

The fungi are attracted to warm, moist environments, so many of the conditions occur in covered locations or in areas of skin folds:

Common Fungal Infections:

  • Tinea corporis, or ringworm, is especially common among children. Tinea corporis is characterized by ring-shaped, scaly and often itchy patches of the skin. Ringworm is contagious and can be passed from person to person or through contact with contaminated personal care products, clothing or linens. Pets, particularly cats and dogs, can also pass on the infection to humans.
  • Tinea Barbae, is ringworm of the beard area. It may also produce red bumps and pustules.
  • Tinea Capitus is infection of the scalp. It can cause patches of hair loss and in rare cases, cause thick, crusted plaques that ooze. This is common in children.
  • Tinea Cruris, aka “Jock Itch,” occurs in the groin and middle thighs. This is more common in men.
  • Tinea Pedis, aka “Athlete’s Foot,” usually occurs between the toes and along the sides of the feet. This is linked to toenail infections (tinea unguinum)
  • Tinea Unguium, is infection of the nails. Toenails are much more common than fingernails. Affected nails are white or yellow in color and often thickened. Crumbly material can be found underneath the nails. Patient often have associated infection between the toes (tinea pedis)

Common Yeast Infections:

  • Tinea of Pityriasis Versicolor, is characterizes by brown to pink, scaly patches on the chest, neck back and upper arms. It is an overgrowth of common yeast (malessezia) that lives in the hair follicle. This is most common in warm weather or climates. It is NOT contagious.
  • Intertrigo, is an irritation and rash of the skin folds including the underarms, groin and under the breasts. Although often due to friction, bacteria AND yeast, Candida, a type of yeast is often the cause of much of the rash and irritation. Candida causes a bright red rash with raw areas and small circular red dots.

Fungal or yeast infections can often be diagnosed by visual inspection, but oftentimes, a scraping (KOH prep) or biopsy may be necessary to confirm that there is infection.

Topical anti-fungal agents such as clotrimazole (Lotrimin) and terbinefine (Lamisil) are often effective for fungal infections. Nystatin is commonly used for yeast infections, except tinea versicolor, where selenium sulfide (Selsun Blue) or ketoconazole (Nizoral) is useful. For nail disease, a prescription oral anti-fungal medication is often needed to clear the fungus from the deep toenail.

In addition to keeping the area clean and dry, applying over-the-counter antifungal powders to prevent future infections is often necessary. Such powders reduce moisture and combat the fungal and yeast organisms.

In extensive or resistant cases, your skin care specialist may recommend prescription antifungal topical or oral medications.