Fungal infections can affect anyone, and they can appear on several parts of the body. A jock with athlete’s foot, a baby with thrush, and a woman with a vaginal yeast infection are just a few examples.
Fungi are microorganisms characterized by a substance in their cell walls called chitin. Some fungi, like many types of mushrooms, are edible. Other types of fungi, like aspergillus, can be extremely dangerous and lead to life-threatening diseases.
Different types of fungi can cause fungal infections. In some cases, fungi that aren’t typically found on or inside your body can colonize it and cause an infection. In other cases, fungi that are normally present on or inside your body can multiply out of control and cause an infection.
Fungal infections can be contagious. They can spread from one person to another. In some cases, you can also catch disease-causing fungi from infected animals or contaminated soil or surfaces.
If you develop signs or symptoms of a fungal infection, make an appointment with your doctor.
A fungal infection is also known as mycosis. Although most fungi are harmless to humans, some of them are capable of causing diseases under specific conditions.
Fungi reproduce by releasing spores that can be picked up by direct contact or even inhaled. That’s why fungal infections are most likely to affect your skin, nails, or lungs. Fungi can also penetrate your skin, affect your organs, and cause a body-wide systemic infection.
Some common types of a fungal infection include:
- athlete’s foot
- jock itch
- yeast infection
- onychomycosis, or fungal infection of the nail
Some types of fungi don’t normally cause infections in humans but can cause sickness in people with weakened immune systems. These are called opportunistic infections.
How can fungal infections be prevented?
Good hygiene is also critical for avoiding fungal infections.
- keep your skin clean and dry, particularly the folds of your skin
- wash your hands often, especially after touching animals or other people
- avoid using other people’s towels and other personal care products
- wear shoes in locker rooms, community showers, and swimming pools
- wipe gym equipment before and after using it
Your treatment options will depend on the type of fungal infection you have and whether or not you get yeast infections regularly.