Fungal infections are a lot more common than most people realize. Data gathered by GAFFI (an international foundation focused on raising awareness of and collecting worldwide data on fungal disease), revealed that an estimated 47 million African people (or 3,3%) suffer from fungal diseases. (1)
What is a fungal infection?
A fungal infection, also called mycosis, is a skin disease caused by a fungus. There are millions of species of fungi which live in soil, plants, on household surfaces, and on skin. They can in turn cause infectious skin problems. (2)
Symptoms of fungal infections
A fungal skin infection may cause (3):
- Scaly looking skin
- Flaking skin
What causes fungal infections?
Certain fungi cause many of the common fungal infections we know today. This variety of fungi belongs to a group called dermatophytes, which causes infections like Athlete’s Foot and ringworm. (4) The fungi thrive in closed, warm, moist environments and survive on keratin, a protein found in skin, hair, and nails. Infection can also be caused by a yeast (a type of fungus) called Candida. Candida lives inside the body in the mouth, throat, gut, vagina and on the skin. When it multiplies excessively, it can cause an infection. (5)
Common types of fungal infection
One of the most common fungal infections is ringworm, which can occur all over the body. It mostly causes a round or ring-shaped rash with a raised border, but the rash may be shaped differently on certain areas, such as the hands or head. On darker skin, the ringworm rash is often gray or brown. (6)
Ringworm on the head is mostly common in children and often includes hair loss. It is especially prevalent in Africa. (7)
- Athlete’s Foot
Athlete’s foot often presents with peeling and flaking skin between the toes, with itching and redness. It is contagious and can also spread from the foot to other parts of the body, especially if you scratch or pick at your foot. (8)
Risk factors for Athlete’s Foot include (9):
- Frequently wearing closed shoes
- Excessive sweating
- Sharing carpets, linen, clothes or shoes with someone who has a fungal infection
- Walking barefoot in public areas such as gyms, especially saunas, swimming pools, and showers
In most cases, treating fungal infection involves keeping the affected area clean and dry, as well as using over-the-counter antifungal medicines. In more severe cases, you might need prescription medications to put on your skin or take by mouth, and these should be discussed with your doctor.