Diseases Caused by Fungi

Fungal diseases are usually caused by common fungi found in our environment, including the soil, plants, trees, and even on our skin and other parts of the body. Symptoms of fungal infection depend on the type and location in the body. Fungal infections may be mild, manifesting as rashes or mild respiratory problems. However, some diseases caused by fungi may be severe and can cause serious complications and death. Here in this article we list common diseases caused by fungi, including causes, symptoms and treatment options for each condition.

Common Diseases Caused by Fungi

1. Candida Infection

Candidiasis is a common yeast infection that affects many people. There are hundreds of thousands of candida microorganisms that normally live in our bodies. They can be found in the mouth, gut, and female organ. Symptoms vary according to different areas infected. Most candida infections are mild but resistance to drug therapy is becoming more common, thereby making some infections tougher to treat.

Yeasts like candida cause disease when their numbers increase and upset the balance of microorganisms in the body. This opportunistic type of infection happens when certain factors such as decreased immune resistance, over-use of antibiotics or other diseases occur.

In most cases, when these factors are eliminated or improved, candida infection of a localized area such as the vagina disappears. In other cases, treatment with antifungal medications is necessary to stop their overgrowth. However, in people with severely depressed immune systems, fungal infection can spread and affect the body in general.

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2. Fungal Meningitis

This fungal infection is caused by Cryptococcus, which leads to inflammation of the thin membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. A common life-threatening condition that affects many HIV patients, infection is usually acquired through inhalation of fungal cells in the air. These organisms usually thrive in the body of people whose immune systems are weakened.

Symptoms include drowsiness, headaches, and confusion. Diagnosis is made from spinal fluid and blood tests. Antifungal treatment is usually given intravenously (through the blood), which may last for weeks. AIDS patients who are given antiretroviral therapy are less likely to develop this opportunistic infection. However, if it occurs in these patients, a long lasting maintenance treatment with oral medications is given to prevent relapse.

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3. Aspergillus Infection

Aspergillus molds spread in the air and cause serious infections in the lungs and blood of people with weak immune systems, such as those with cancer, HIV, or bone marrow recipients. They are found in air conditioning systems, in beddings, plants, basements, dust, and almost everywhere. These molds act as a potent allergen, which can trigger asthma. Symptoms include coughing, wheezing and fever. Infection may be treated with antifungal medications such as Voriconazole.

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4. Athlete's Foot

This common fungal infection is also known as tinea pedis, which causes redness, itching, peeling, blisters, burning, and sores on the foot. The fungus favors warm and moist environments such as socks, shoes, locker rooms, swimming pools, and public showers. Infection is common in summer or in warm and humid climates. The fungus lives on dead tissues of the toenails, skin, and hair.

Treatment includes the use of topical antifungal drug, which is applied directly on your skin. However, in severe cases oral drugs may be needed. Feet must be kept dry and clean at all times.

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5. Jock Itch

This common skin infection, also known as tinea cruris, is caused by fungi called tinea. This fungus lives in warm and moist areas like the genitals, buttocks, and the inner thighs. Infections frequently occur in summer as well as in warm and wet climates. It causes red, itchy rashes that are ring-shaped. Direct contact with infected individuals can cause the spread of infection. Symptoms include itching, burning, redness, peeling, flaking or cracked skin. Treatment includes the use of over-the counter creams for mild infection and prescription-strength antifungals for severe infection. Keep affected areas clean and dry. It is also important to change your underwear daily.

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6. Ringworm

Although the name sounds like the infection is caused by a worm, tinea corporis or ringworm is caused by a fungus. Flat, red sores, some with the outer parts raised, appear anywhere on the skin. Patches of raised skin sores may overlap and skin may appear scaly. The fungal infection may spread through direct contact with skin of an infected person and indirectly through contaminated objects such as clothes or furniture. Warm, humid climates favor the growth of these fungi. Microscopic examination of skin scrapings can help confirm the diagnosis. Treatment consists of topical antifungal creams such as Lamisil, Micatin, and Lotrimin. Severe infections may be treated with oral or prescription strength medications.

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