Skin infections (Part 3): Fungal

Hi everyone! I know you’re probably sick of reading about skin infections. However, for the sake of completeness, we need to finish our discussion by talking about fungal skin infections.

Fungi are widespread in the environment. Fungal infections in humans can generally be classified into 3 categories:

  1. Superficial skin infections
  2. Deeper subcutaneous infections
  3. Widespread systemic infections

Today we will be focusing on superficial infections, as these are more common in combat sports. There are many species of fungi that can cause these infections.

Tinea corporis (ringworm)

Tinea corporis is a cutaneous fungal infection occurring in sites other than the feet, groin, face, or hand.

ringworm 1Tinea_crprs_plaq

What to look out for:

  1. Red, scaly, circular or oval patch
  2. Usually itchy
  3. Continues to grow and spread outwards from the center
  4. Central area clears, while an advancing raised border remains (forming a ring-like lesion)

Tinea Pedis (athlete’s foot)

Tinea pedis (also known as athlete’s foot) is the most common fungal skin infection. Infection is usually acquired by means of direct contact with the fungi, as may occur by walking barefoot in locker rooms or swimming pool facilities.


Interdigital tinea pedis


What to look out for:

  1. Red, itchy, erosions or scales between the toes
  2. May sometimes be painful

Moccasin-type tinea pedis


What to look out for:

  1. Patchy, dry scaling on the soles and sides of the feet
  2. On a red base

Tinea cruris (Jock itch)

Jock itch is common in athletes in the groin region due to copious amounts of sweating and tight-fitting clothing.


What to look out for:

  1. Red, itchy patch on the upper and inner part of the thigh
  2. Patch grows and spreads outwards
  3. Central area clears slightly
  4. Red, elevated border that may have tiny fluid filled blisters

Treatment of fungal skin infections

If you notice a fungal infection on your skin, you should stop training and visit a doctor. These infections are contagious and spread via skin-on-skin contact.

The doctor can usually diagnose a simple fungal infection by looking at it. However, ringworm can sometimes be confused with other ring-like skin eruptions. One such example is eczema (treated with topical steroids). If a fungal infection is misdiagnosed and initially treated with a topical steroid, the appearance of the infection may be altered, making diagnosis more difficult. The infection may also worsen (steroids suppress the immune system) and progress to a deep-seated infection of the follicles. (Majocchi’s granuloma). Therefore, the doctor might do a skin scraping and utilize a microscope to confirm the diagnosis.

The doctor might give you antifungal drugs that can be directly applied to the affected area of the skin. Treatment is generally administered once or twice per day for one to three weeks. Oral antifungal drugs may be prescribed for patients with extensive skin involvement and patients who fail topical therapy.

Prevention of fungal skin infections

The same prevention tips for bacterial and viral skin infections still apply. Here are some other guidelines that can help keep fungi away from your skin.

  1. Always wear slippers or sandals when at the gym, pool, or other public areas. That includes public showers.
  2. Dry yourself well after showering (don’t forget your feet and in between the toes!)
  3. Consider using talcum powder for your feet and groin if you have recurring infections


That sums up our discussion about skin infections! I hope this 3-part series has taught you a thing or two about common conditions of the skin. I also hope it has underscored the need to maintain good personal hygiene.

Stay tuned for the next post about cauliflower ear!



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