Treating skin fungal diseases – treatment, effects & risks

Treating skin fungal diseases

When the layman hears something about mushrooms, he first thinks of the mushrooms in the forest. In fact, this thought is not so far-fetched in connection with athlete’s foot . Every mushroom picker knows that in a warm, humid summer he can bring home a particularly large number of “sponges”. Just like the fungi in the forest, the skin and athlete’s foot also thrive particularly well in a humid environment.

Importance of skin fungal diseases

Forest mushrooms also form a microscopically fine network of intertwining threads known as mycelium. A very similar mycelium can also be found in skin fungi. They are therefore also called mycoses. However, the latter cannot form any fruiting bodies, which can be seen in forest mushrooms. Male and female spores form in this fruiting body, after which a new fungus can grow out after they combine. Such sexual reproduction is not known for skin fungi. They are therefore also referred to as incomplete mushrooms.

Fungal diseases of the skin have increased significantly in the last ten to twenty years. It is no exaggeration to claim today that around half of the population in Germany suffers from a fungal disease. In many cases, however, the skin symptoms are so minor that the disease is only noticed after a careful examination.

However, symptoms can worsen at any time, requiring medical attention. It is therefore important to combat skin fungi wherever they occur, even if the symptoms on the skin are not yet pronounced. But in order to understand some preventive measures, it is necessary to get acquainted with the biology of these microorganisms.

Causes and transmission of skin fungal diseases

Skin fungi can be transmitted from animals to humans or from human to human. Sources of infection are pets, such as cattle, dogs or cats. The fungi can attack both the superficial horny layer of the skin and skin appendages such as hair or nails. In the following we want to deal in particular with the fungal diseases of the horny layer, the so-called epidermophytia, as these are still the most common today.

As already mentioned at the beginning, the prerequisite for the growth of such fungi is a moist environment. This is particularly the case on parts of the body where skin is on skin, since the evaporation of sweat is slower here. We therefore find such fungi particularly frequently between toes and fingers, on the inside of the thighs or in the area of ​​the genitals. However, such fungi can also occur on parts of the body with particularly pronounced sweating, such as on the soles of the feet or palms of the hands. Therefore, people with particularly heavy sweating are more prone to fungal diseases than others.

Normally, the skin is able to fight off such fungi. There is a fine film on the skin that consists of certain fat-like substances that inhibit the growth of fungi. But the fairly solid horny layer also resists the penetration of the fungi. In addition to the pathogen, various preconditions are necessary for the spread of a fungal infection. This includes:

  • a humid environment
  • increased sweating
  • clothing that is too tight or too thick, shoes or stockings that are not permeable to air
  • the loosening of the horny layer and the destruction of the fatty film of the skin

Clothing can also promote a moist environment that is favorable for skin fungi. Normally, the skin perspiration is absorbed by the clothing, unless it has previously escaped to the outside as water vapour. In this finely divided form, it can be easily vaporized. However, if you wear rubber boots, for example, air circulation is impossible. That is why it happens that people who usually have to wear rubber boots in their job, such as butchers or butchers, miners, fishermen or farmers, contract mycoses more frequently.

Yes, even shoes with air-permeable rubber soles are found to be annoying by people with heavy foot sweat and encourage them to develop athlete’s foot. Modern stockings made of synthetic fibres, such as nylon and polyester fibres, also have one unpleasant property, in addition to many pleasant ones, namely that they are water-repellent. As a result, the evaporation process described above cannot take place. The modern hosiery industry has therefore already made various attempts to eliminate these disadvantages, but so far no significant success has been recorded.

The moist environment also causes other damage to the skin. The fairly solid, coherent horny layer gradually softens, so that the fungi can penetrate easily and have a good breeding ground in the protein of the horny layer. Horny layer and fatty film of the skin can also be damaged by other factors. For example, by washing your hands frequently, handling lime and cement or by using solvents such as petrol, benzene and others.

Treatment & Prevention of Athlete’s Foot

If your feet sweat too much, it is advisable to wear small cotton pads between your toes to absorb the sweat. A mild fungal disease can even heal with these simple measures. It is well known that athlete’s foot most commonly occurs between the toes. The skin usually turns whitish, looks swollen, almost as if it has been cooked and tends to scale and crack. In more severe cases, the sclera is exposed, with the top layers of skin peeling off in shreds, showing weeping spots that sometimes cause pain . This condition is not uncommonly caused by scratching or inappropriate handling. There are also vesicles filled with a watery liquid. 

The treatment is relatively simple, but should still be carried out by a doctor. Self-treatment with various antifungal agents usually aggravates the condition. But prophylaxis is difficult. The mushrooms are quite resilient and can last for months in stockings or shoes. Sport, bathing, both in the lido and in the indoor pool, club holidays in hotel complexes and the like, provide many opportunities for infection and the spread of the fungi. Common washrooms or shower rooms in schools and kindergartens also promote their spread.

Of course, you cannot do without such hygienic measures because of this. However, you should never enter common rooms with bare feet, but always with flip-flops. The disinfection of stockings and shoes is problematic because stockings and shoes cannot always be boiled. However, the fungi are not killed off with the usual washing processes, and disinfectant solutions make the women’s stockings in particular unsightly. Chemical disinfectants and athlete’s foot sprays often cause hypersensitivity (allergies) of the skin. It is therefore important to find a substance that sticks to the fiber or shoe, kills fungi well and does not cause allergies .

The pharmaceutical industry, in collaboration with various scientific laboratories, has made efforts to solve these problems. The tests so far have turned out to be quite favourable, so that one can expect the introduction of special stockings, which could be of great help and relief, especially for people who are easily prone to fungal diseases.

However, the best prevention and treatment of athlete’s foot is not to be achieved with medication, foot sprays and chemical clubs, but can be found in a healthy and natural lifestyle. This includes frequent walking barefoot, especially in summer, as well as regularly and thoroughly drying your feet after showering, bathing or swimming. If possible, you should also go barefoot a lot at home. Many households today already have pleasant underfloor heating and natural floors made of natural stone or terracotta tiles, so that walking barefoot will have more than a pleasant and healthy effect on the feet.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.