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Fungal Skin Infections - Types, Symptoms, and Treatment

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Fungal Skin Infections - Types, Symptoms, and Treatment

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This article will give you information about different fungal infections and their prevention.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Sneha Kannan

Published At July 17, 2019
Reviewed AtJune 6, 2023


Fungal infection is also known as mycosis, which is caused by microorganism fungi. Fungi are everywhere in the air, water, and human body. Some of the fungi are harmful and can cause rashes or itch. Fungal infections spread fast and can spread from skin-to-skin contact with infected clothes, sharing combs and bedsheets, and poor hygiene.

What Is a Fungal Skin Infection?

These organisms can penetrate the skin through a cut or lesion, as fungi are everywhere. They are found in warm and moist environments and areas that are more sweaty and do not get much airflow, such as feet, groin, and skin folds. The fungal infections often appear as a scaly rash or discoloration of the skin, which is usually itchy. Fungal infections of the skin are widespread and are not very serious, and can be controlled easily if the patient takes proper treatment at the beginning with adequate hygiene.

Who Are at Risk of Developing Fungal Infections?

Anyone can get a fungal infection. Superficial infections of the skin and nails are considered the most common type of fungal infection. A person might have a higher chance of getting a fungal infection if the individual has one or more of the following mentioned below.

  • A weak immune system.

  • Taking high-dose antibiotics for a longer duration.

  • Excess weight.

  • Systemic conditions, such as diabetes.

  • Sweating profusely.

What Are the Types of Fungal Skin Infections?

The fungal infections are termed tinea. The different names of fungal skin infections are mentioned below as per the location.

  • Tinea Cruris (Jock Itch) - This fungal infection of the genitals, inner thighs, and buttocks. It affects more men than women.

  • Tinea Corporis (Ringworm of The Body) - It is a superficial fungal infection that does not fit into any other category, and the rash often appears as a ring shape.

  • Tinea Pedis (Athlete’s Foot) - The most common fungal infection occurs when a person walks barefoot in public restrooms or locker rooms. The area infected is the skin between the toes which turns white and starts to peel off. In some cases, the bottom of the feet can also get infected.

  • Tinea Capitis (Ringworm of The Scalp) - This infection is commonly seen in children and areas such as the scalp, eyebrows, and eyelashes.

  • Tinea Unguium (Onychomycosis) - This is a common infection of toenails that causes the change of color of nails to yellow and makes them thick and can break easily.

What Are the Causes of Fungal Skin Infections?

Fungus is the cause of all varieties of infections, as mentioned earlier. A tiny fungus is known as a dermatophyte. They live on superficial skin, and when the situation is favorable, they cause rashes. The rashes often pass from one person to another or from animal to person by direct contact. Sometimes it can also happen because of the following reasons.

  • Wearing tight clothes with improper aeration.

  • Too much sweat can make the body part humid and moist, which is ideal for fungal growth.

  • Living in a crowded area results in increased humidity.

  • Contact sports like wrestling, rugby, and soccer.

  • Low immunity.

What Does a Fungal Rash Look Like?

A fungal skin infection looks like a bright red patch that can spread across a large area. It can also have some of the following characteristics, such as;

  • The color can be more intense at the border.

  • More defined lesions or pustules at the edge of the rash.

What Are the Symptoms of Fungal Skin Infections?

The symptoms of fungal skin infections are:

  • Tinea Unguium (Onychomycosis) - In this, nails become yellowish, thick, brittle, and sometimes red with swelling and pain, and they can break easily.

  • Tinea Pedis (Athlete’s Foot) - It has a scaly rash with burning, stinging, and itching. The skin appears red, scaly, dry, flaky, cracked, or blistered. It is contagious. It can spread by contaminated floors, towels, bedsheets, and clothes. The infection can sometimes spread to other body areas, such as nails, groin, or hands (tinea manuum).

  • Tinea Cruris (Jock Itch) - The primary symptom of a jock itch is an itchy red rash that usually starts in the groin area. The rash can worsen after exercising or other physical activity and spread to the buttocks and abdomen.

  • Tinea Capitis - In this infection, the hair becomes brittle with a painful scalp, low-grade fever, and crusty swelling, which can lead to pus formation in severe cases. It is more common in young children and can be treated with an antifungal shampoo.

  • Tinea Corporis or Ringworm - The most common sign is raised red rash on any body part. Margins are elevated, and the central part is mostly clear. It usually occurs on the arms and legs but can occur on any body part. Sometimes the rash can be dry and scaly.

How Are Fungal Skin Infections Diagnosed?

A fungal rash can be easily diagnosed by just looking at it. A healthcare provider might take the scrapings of the skin and observe them under a microscope to confirm the diagnosis. In some cases, a fungal culture test can identify a specific fungus to help determine the best treatment. In severe infection, a blood test may also be required.

What Is the Treatment for Fungal Infections?

Fungal infections can be efficiently managed by taking antifungal medications. These medicines can kill the disease-causing organism (fungi) or prevent them from growing and thriving. Antifungal drugs are readily available in the market and come in various forms, such as:

  • Creams or ointments.

  • Pills.

  • Powders or lotions.

  • Sprays or gels.

  • Shampoos.

Oral medications, along with topical medicines, work best in case of severe infections.

How Can Fungal Skin Infections Be Prevented?

Fungal skin infections can be prevented by following the below-mentioned tips:

  • Wear loose clothes with proper aeration.

  • Wash hands after handling animals, soil, and plants.

  • Keep good hygiene while playing sports.

  • The fungus prefers a warm, moist environment, so keep the skin dry.

  • Take a bath properly and dry the body entirely with a neat and clean towel.

  • Avoid contact with the person infected with the fungal infection.

  • Do not share bed linen, hairbrush, underwear, or combs with an affected person.

  • Wash the clothes of the affected person separately.


Fungal skin infections are common and can be uncomfortable but are easily treated. These are not severe conditions, but a person should consult a healthcare provider whenever they experience any symptoms. Without proper treatment, they may spread and become severely irritated.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Are the Four Common Fungal Infections?

The four types of fungal infections are
- Ringworm of the body or Tinea corporis. 
- Jock itch or Tinea cruris.
- Athlete’s foot or Tinea pedis.
- Fungal infection of the nails or onychomycosis or Tinea unguium.


Which Type of Fungal Infection Is Severe?

The severe type of fungal infections are
- Candidiasis - Caused by Candida.
- Aspergillosis - Caused by Aspergilla.
- Pneumocystis pneumonia - Caused by Pneumocystis jirovecii.


Which Deficiency Causes Skin Fungal Infection?

Skin fungal infections are caused by CARD9 (caspase recruitment domain family member 9) deficiency, a type of genetic immune disorder. The deficiency of CARD9 increases the susceptibility to candidiasis infection. In addition, vitamin D deficiency also affects the body's immune system and can cause fungal infections.


What Is the Cause of Fungal Infection?

Fungal infections usually occur when the body contacts any fungal spores in the environment but do not fall sick. These compromise or weaken the immune system and therefore cause fungal infections. In addition, some fungal infections may occur due to the sudden overgrowth of fungus living naturally on the skin.


How Does Fungal Infection Spread?

Fungal infections can spread from one person to another through direct contact or even from contaminated surfaces or soil and infected animals. For example, if someone comes in contact with someone with ringworm, they can catch the infection through contact.


Which Food Should Be Avoided in Fungal Infection?

A person having a fungal infection should avoid following foods.
- Refined grains.
- High-sugar food (bananas, raisins, etc.) and fruits.
- Alcohol.
- Processed meat.
- Grains containing gluten.


What Can Kill Fungal Cells In the Body?

Fungal cells in the body can be killed by phagocyte cells in the immune system response. These cells recognize the fungi in the body, internalize them and finally eliminate them from the system.


How Do Skin Fungal Infections Initiate?

Skin fungal infections can start from direct contact through environmental exposure. They can also occur from naturally living fungi on the skin, hair, and nails, which often penetrate beneath the skin and starts fungal infections of the skin.


Is a Fungal Infection Severe?

Certain fungal infections, such as bloodstream infections and meningitis (infection and inflammation of the brain and spinal cord membranes), can be very severe and life-threatening for a person. However, these infections are not very common like other skin and lung fungal infections, which are not very severe.


How Is Fungal Infection Diagnosed?

Fungal infection can be diagnosed through a physical examination of the area and evaluation of the symptoms by the healthcare provider. In addition, a fungal culture test can help identify the type of fungal infection and helps in planning treatment accordingly.


Why Does Fungal Infection Not Go Away?

Fungal infections do not go away easily as they shed tiny spores on the body's surface, which remain dormant initially and can grow into new fungal infections later in life. One classic example is fungal spores in shoes that get collected over time and cause infection later on.


Why Does Fungal Infection Recur?

Fungal infections usually recur due to poor personal hygiene and a damp environment. Also, these infections recur as the fungal spores can remain in familiar places and grow into fungus in later life, causing reinfection.


How to Know if the Rash Is Fungal or Bacterial?

Fungal infections usually appear as an itchy, red, scaly rash with occasional pustules. In contrast, skin infections caused by bacteria appear with blisters or red welts that may be painful and itchy.


What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Severe Fungal Infection?

The symptoms of fungal infections are
- Chest pain. 
- Fatigue.
- Headache.
- Weight loss.
- Night sweats.
- Joint and muscle pain.
- Asthma-like symptoms.
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Dr. Sheetal Nanji Dama
Dr. Sheetal Nanji Dama



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