A fungal infection on the skin can be as unsightly as it is irritating. Dr George Ogwang, a dermatologist at the Skin Specialist’s Clinic in Wandegeya, Kampala says fungi live on and in our body, domestic animals and the soil, among other places.
“Since fungi are so prevalent in the environment, one would not be wrong to assume high cases of infection; however, infections only occur when the conditions are ideal,” Dr Ogwang notes.
Conditions conducive for fungal skin infection include a break in the skin, dampness or dryness of the skin, close contact with a person who is infected and the use of contaminated public amenities.
Common areas infected
The fungus can attack every part of the body, especially those that tend to be warm and moist such as the armpits, under the breasts in women, in between toes and nails and cavities such as the genitals and the mouth.
Dr Ogwang explains that fungus is named according to the body part infected. For instance the armpit fungus is medically known as tinea axillaris and it causes itching, burning and darkening of the skin under the arms.
Infection usually happens when there are breaks in the skin either as a result of an armpit rash or shaving. Dr George Bwesigye, a general physician at Lifemate Diagnostics in Ntinda, Kampala says sometimes an armpit fungus may occur when for instance someone scratches another infected area and scratches the armpit.
Oftentimes fungus can be transmitted by coming into skin contact with an already infected individual and then scratching unaffected parts of your body can embed the bacteria in your skin and cause you to contract the fungus in that area.
Another common cause of tinea axillaris is allergic reaction to body perfumes, deodorants and lotions. “When one uses deodorants for a long period, they may cause inflammation of the skin and scratching the area may result in breaks in the skin. Perfumed soaps, shower gels and body creams or lotions may cause a similar reaction,” Dr. Bwesigye explains.
Poor hygiene and bad diet can cause fungal infections.
Dr Ogwang says treating all infected areas on your body will help prevent cross-contamination and recurrence in other places. “Similarly do not share towels, clothes or any other personal items with other people who are also infected.”
He says another important thing to keep in mind is good hygiene; try to keep the underarm area dry, as accumulation of moisture can promote fungal growth, shower immediately after exercising to prevent sweat accumulation, wear loose fitting and comfortable clothes made of cotton, so as to allow your skin to breathe.
“Make sure that you wear clean and properly washed clothes, as unclean clothes can build fungal infection in armpits and elsewhere in the body. A poor diet also causes infections, so avoid foods that inhibit the growth of good bacteria such as sugary drinks and snacks. Avoid foods or products such as mushrooms and cheese, which contain yeast. Add foods in your diet that has natural fungal fighting agents such as garlic and also drink plenty of water,” he adds.
The dermatologist further advises stopping the use of any deodorants or antiperspirants that were used prior to the infection, as they may also have the fungus on them. Also wear lighter clothing to promote ventilation and prevention of sweaty buildup.
Avoid the temptation to scratch the infected area because microabrasions caused by scratching will allow the fungal infection to persist.
The most common way to treat infections according to Dr Ogwang is using antifungal creams, lotions or gels that can be bought over the counter. In severe cases, especially where there are persistent skin fungal infections, an oral antifungal may be necessary. If a skin rash is present, a corticosteroid cream may be necessary to reduce inflammation and ease itching.