M.D. Claiborne & Associates, L.L.C. - Dermatology Specialists
Most people are familiar with infections and diseases caused by bacteria and viruses, but many are unaware that there is a whole set of disorders related to infections by fungi (singular: fungus). Many of these fungal infections affect the skin. Doctors give some fungal infections of the skin the general name “tinea.” Superficial fungal infections are found in the top layers of the skin and mucous membranes, the hair, and the nails. Examples of fungal infections of the skin and other external surfaces include athletes foot, jock itch, ringworm, and candida. These can affect the hair and nails as well. Deep fungal infections invade deeper layers of the skin and hair follicles and can spread to the blood or internal organs.
Fungi are a unique group of organisms that have some plantlike characteristics. Examples of fungi include mushrooms, mold, and yeast. Fungi differ from plants, however, in two major ways: (1) their cell walls are made of chitin, rather than cellulose, and (2) they lack the ability to make their own food by photosynthesis; thus they grow directly on their food source. This food source can be the human skin. Some fungi are simple one-celled organisms. Others are relatively complex, exhibiting specialized cell functions. They grow in soil, on living and dead plants and trees, as well as on animals and humans. The reproductive cell, or spore, of a fungus can be spread by direct contact, air, and water.
Risk Factors of Antibiotic Use
Antibiotics are medicines designed to kill harmful bacteria that are causing infection or illness. Sometimes these drugs can also reduce the helpful bacteria that live in the body. When these populations are reduced, fungi may take the opportunity to colonize.
Compromised Immune System
The immune system is a set of chemical and cellular responses that attack disease-causing organisms and help prevent their growth. A number of factors can depress this system. These include chemotherapy (cancer-killing drugs) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). A depressed immune system less effectively fights off all types of infection. Thus a fungus that normally would be controlled by the immune system may begin to grow.
Fungi require moisture to grow and reproduce. Fungal infections are more prevalent in warm, moist areas of the body such as the armpits, groin, and feet.
Fungal infections can be passed from person to person or from objects and surfaces to a person. Also, an individual can transfer infection to other parts of the body by touching.
Depending on the type of infection, body areas affected, and severity of the infection, Dr. Claiborne may choose to use either topical or systemic anti fungal medications.