Various strains of fungi live on human skin without causing infections. In fact, the body needs most of the fungi to function normally. But if some of them start to thrive uncontrollably, they can cause irritating yeast infections.
The telltale signs of yeast infection on skin are itchy red rashes that usually appear on skin folds. The infection can also spread from one area to another. On the bright side, these skin conditions can be treated with antifungal ointments and improved personal hygiene.
Let’s take a closer look at the types of fungi that cause yeast infections. They may attack different parts of the body and the infections exhibit different symptoms.
Candida – The Usual Suspect
The CDC lists more than 150 different Candida species. Luckily, there are only a few that can cause an infection if multiplied too quickly. Like most yeast infections, candida can cause intensely itchy rashes on different parts of the skin.
It usually develops in the groin area, armpits, between fingers, or under breasts. At this point, you might wonder what causes candidiasis or candida infection. Well, this fungus loves warm and moist places that allow it to multiply abnormally. Therefore, suitable conditions include warm weather, poor hygiene, and tight clothing.
On the other hand, medications like antibiotics and corticosteroids may also cause candidiasis. Corticosteroids weaken the immune system and antibiotics can destroy other bacteria which keep candida in check.
A few simple lifestyle changes are usually enough to prevent and treat candida infection. First, make sure to keep your skin dry and maintain good hygiene. This involves regular changes of clothes and using a gentle soap, especially in the infected areas. Taking probiotics and limiting sugar intake wouldn’t hurt either.
If the infection spirals out of control, it is recommended to see a physician for a prescription-strength antifungal cream.
Trichophyton Rubrum – Jock Infection
Trichophyton rubrum is the usual fungus that causes jock itch but it may also infect the body and toes. Jock itch develops in the groin area and usually isn’t limited to one side. The affected patch of skin is redder on the outer edges and slightly raised.
If untreated, the infection may spread down the inner thigh. However, if the infection is on the scrotum or penis, Trichophyton rubrum is not the fungus to blame. In that case, Candida albicans is the likely culprit. The exact pathogen can be determined with a KOH test.
The best treatment for jock itch is antifungal ointments. Many of the ointments or creams are available by prescription only, but there are over-the-counter (OTC) ones as well. The common OTC antifungal creams include Lotrimin, Micatin, and Tinactin. You may have to ask the attending pharmacist for them instead of finding them on the open shelves.
There are a few things one can do to prevent jock itch. Wearing loose clothing is the first line of defense. After a shower, dry the groin area thoroughly before putting on clothes.
Tinea Versicolor – Infection of the Top Skin Layer
The species of yeast that cause tinea versicolor, also known as pityriasis versicolor, are Pityrosporum ovale and Pityrosporum orbitale. Normally, these yeasts live on the skin’s top layer and in hair follicles. They are generally benign, but like all other yeasts, they can go on a growth spurt and cause an infection.
The infection is often characterized by hyper or hypopigmentation. The affected areas are red and flat and can become quite large. It usually attacks the torso and the infection skin would appear somewhat scaly. Nevertheless, some people can develop tinea versicolor on the limbs instead. This yeast infection results in a very mild itch.
Besides humid weather and oily skin, there are a few other things that can cause tinea versicolor. Among them are poor nutrition, steroid therapy, and hormonal imbalance. Those who take oral contraceptives might also be more susceptible to this infection.
Tinea versicolor can be effectively treated with OTC antifungal creams and shampoos. However, the hyper or hypopigmentation may stay for a few weeks after the treatment.
Tinea Pedis – Athlete’s Foot
Athlete’s foot is a common yeast infection on skin. It’s estimated that about 70% of people would get it at least once in their lifetime. Dermatophytes are the fungi responsible for this condition. There are three types of athlete’s foot with somewhat different symptoms. They are as follows.
The most common is chronic interdigital which usually shows up as fissures and scales between the fourth and fifth toe. The fungi can get in contact with bacteria and cause the infection to spread to the entire foot. The affected feels an intense itch, especially after taking off shoes or socks.
The culprit here is the previously-mentioned Trichophyton rubrum. And as the name suggests, it’s characterized by scaly skin that appears on the sole. The skin below the silvery scale is often tender. This yeast infection can also affect the hands.
Trichophyton mentagrophytes is the fungus that causes acute vesicular athlete’s foot. This is the least common type which usually affects people who have a chronic infection of the toe web. Painful blisters would suddenly appear on the foot or the sole.
The treatment is quite similar to other yeast infection therapies. So OTC ointments and sprays for mild infections and oral antifungals for those suffering from chronic interdigital or chronic scaly type.
Mild infections may disappear after a few weeks of treatment but the oral therapy might take up to six months.
The Last Itch
This article outlines some of the most common types of yeast infection on skin. But there are countless fungi and there are all sorts of infection which can cause rashes, blisters, and itches. This is why it’s paramount to pay a visit to a physician to determine the exact type and nature of an infection.
Luckily, most yeast infections are not hard to treat and proper hygiene plays a major role in the treatment. So there is no need to worry even if you spot some odd-looking red patches on your skin.