Fungi are plant organisms, and include molds, mildews, mushrooms, rusts, and yeasts. In humans, most fungal infections are common, usually mild, and fairly easy to treat.
Anyone can get a fungal nail infection which is harder to treat; but it is more common in adults older than 60 years of age, and is especially common in people with diabetes or circulation problems, Children hardly ever get fungal nail infections.
Burning/itching between the toes or in the groin, under-breast rash, thick brittle yellowish nails, vaginal itching, and sore mouth could be types of fungal infections. Whether it is called Onychomycosis, Ringworm, Candida, Yeast, Dermatophytosis, Tinea, Jock itch or Athletes Foot, it is a form of fungal infection.
Fungi grow in warm, moist places, such as between the toes (athlete’s foot) or in the groin (jock itch), but can occur almost anywhere on the body. Certain diseases or drugs can make people more susceptible to a fungal infection; Antibiotics in particular can destroy the “good” bacteria that keep the fungi in check. Questions about vaginal or nail infections should be answered by your physician or dermatologist.
Athlete’s foot is the most common fungal infection, but you don’t have to be an athlete to get it. It is found most often in teenage and adult males, is infrequent in women, and uncommon in children under the age of 12. Moisture, sweating and lack of proper ventilation of the feet may cause the fungus of athlete’s foot to grow. It is not very contagious, and often one family member may have it without others in the same house being infected. Athlete’s foot may give symptoms of peeling and cracking of the skin between the toes, especially the last two toes. Or there may be redness, scaling, and even blisters on the soles and along the sides of the feet. Any of these symptoms may be accompanied by itching.
Jock itch is more common in men who wear athletic supporters, as well as in people who are obese or who perspire excessively. The infection leads to an itchy rash that may involve the groin and anal areas and may occur in women as well as men. Even though this infection is mildly contagious, it may be acquired in public showers or swimming areas, or from shared towels. Preventive measures include scrupulous hygiene, keeping the involved areas dry, and laundering athletic supporters frequently.
Effective creams, liquids and powders are available to eradicate mild types of fungal infections, although it can take up to two weeks or longer, even for mild cases. Some anti-fungals are now sold without prescription, so mild infections can be treated quite easily most of the time. Some of the creams are clotrimazole (brand name Lotrimin), miconazole (Micatin), and terbinafine (Lamisil); these products were on prescription only at one time. In addition to the main medication, an anti-fungal powder can be used to keep the area dry, thus attacking the infection two ways. For athlete’s foot, sprinkle your shoes with the powder between treatment with a cream or liquid. The foot powder can also be used in socks. An easy recommendation for toenail (not skin) fungus is an old fashioned remedy used as a chest rub mostly, called Vicks Vaporub. Rub on toenails nightly or twice daily for 2 weeks. See your podiatrist if that doesn’t help.
To help prevent fungal infections, keep the nails clean, and try not to trim them too closely. If your toenails are thick and difficult to cut, soak them in warm salt water (one teaspoon of salt per pint of water) for 5 to 10 minutes. Even trimming nails after a shower makes them easier to manage. Don’t walk barefoot in public areas, especially hotel rooms and public showers. Make sure shoes fit properly, and don’t wear anyone else’s shoes. Wash your sneakers quite often, hang them outside to dry or use the dryer, and don’t wear the same shoes every day. When you bathe, don’t forget to dry the areas between the toes. Wear cotton socks; they help keep your feet dry because they absorb moisture. Wear gloves when gardening and wear shoes made of leather, fabric and other natural materials that let your feet breathe; vinyl and plastic do not.
If anti-fungal, non-prescription medications don’t work for these infections, see your doctor who can clear up the problem with other measures. Although effective creams for vaginal yeast (fungal) infections are available without prescription, check with your health care provider before using them; it could be another type of infection that requires different medication. For nail or persistent infections, definitely see your physician or dermatologist.
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