The biggest organ in the human body is the skin and our skin is the external barrier between our vital internal organs and our environment. As such, it is important to look after the health of our skin.The broadest name for fungal infections of the skin is tinea. There are many different types of tinea, the names varying according to the area of the body affected. Various fungal organisms can cause tinea, and there are different treatments depending on the site of the infection and the organism involved.
Tinea cruris (jock itch) is characterised by a painful, red, itchy, patch of skin symmetrically in the groin area. It is often mistaken for an STD due to its location, and some people avoid seeing a doctor or seeking treatment due to embarrassment. This is, however, a common condition which is easily treated using antifungal creams.
Tinea capitis is a fungal infection of the scalp which can cause a rash and itching and may appear to cause thinning of the hair.
Tinea pedis is a fungal infection of the feet, also known as athlete’s foot because it is common in people who exercise a lot. After exercising it is important to wash the feet and dry well between the toes as soon as possible, as fungi like to grow in warm, moist conditions. Wearing cotton or light wool socks, sandals or thongs can help by exposing the skin to the air.
Tinea unguium is a fungal infection of the toenails. Initially the nails may appear discoloured or spotty and on close examination an advancing tide of a stain may appear to be encroaching on the nail from the distal end.
So, while not life threatening, fungal skin infections can be annoying, embarrassing and even painful. As they are eminently treatable, if you notice any unusual appearance of your skin, anywhere on your body, do see your GP for diagnosis and you will be well on your way to a resolution of the problem.
By Dr Jo-Anne Zappia, director of medical services, Peak Health Management. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.peakhealth.com.au