Fungus Among Us!
ATHLETE’S FOOT, JOCK ITCH and RINGWORM
These are superficial skin infections caused by a fungus called TINEA. It is a slow growing infection that spreads out in a circle forming a ring and because the ring is raised it looks like a worm and is called ringworm. There is no worm.
The summer months are fertile ground for fungus since it thrives in warm, humid and damp environments like the floors in public showers, saunas or locker rooms. Tinea is easy to pick up there.
Shared clothing, combs, brushes, socks and towels can result in tinea infection. It is noteworthy that dogs and cats are often identified as a suspect. According to Dr. David Kaplan, Clinical Assistant Professor of Dermatology, University of Kansas School of Medicine dogs and cats account for only 3-4% of all cases of ringworm in the USA and very few cats and dogs have no bald patches or areas of hair loss. Unfortunately, treating pets for ringworm is expensive and often does not work. If you are concerned we at FastMed recommend that you see the vet only if there are patches of hair loss. (There are a few exceptions such as Yorkshire terriers and long-haired cats, such as Persians, who can have tinea without showing any hair loss patches). A less expensive approach, if you do have a pet that seems to be causing multiple episodes of ringworm is to wash the pet with over-the-counter selenium or ketoconazole shampoo. The pets do not seem to have any problems with the treatment (other than the dreaded BATH TIME )and there usually is no recurrence after this treatment.
Diabetics are more susceptible to fungal infections. People using corticosteroid cream or orally are predisposed to tinea. The reason for this is that people who have diabetes or use steroids are immunosuppressed. In other words, the immune system is not performing at peak capacity. Diabetics often have poor circulation and as a result, if a fungal infection occurs it is harder to fend off. In fact, if we see a patient at FastMed and they report that they have frequent fungal infections, if the patient has not been already diagnosed with diabetes, we will test their blood to see if they are. Clothes or undergarments that are tight fitting, cause friction, or cause you to sweat more forming than usual can aid jock itch in forming.
Clothes or undergarments that are tight fitting, cause friction or sweaty predispose to getting jock itch.
Cuts and nicks from getting your hair cut can transfer spores from infected combs and scissors.
People that play contact sports such as football are higher risk due to skin-to-skin contact.
The best protection against tinea infections is proper hygiene. Avoid tight fitting clothes, undergarments and shoes. Bathe or shower daily, as well as right after exercising. Do not share combs, towels and bedding materials.
Go to your local FastMed to get a proper diagnosis.
Treatment depends on the location of the infection. Some conditions may require extended courses of oral antifungal agents.
Maintaining proper hygiene is critical to limiting recurrence of tinea.
Melvin Lee MD
Chief Medical Officer, FastMed Urgent Care