Insights Into Fungal Infections
Taped December 2005
Yeast/fungi cause many common skin conditions. Although these germs belong to different “families” (technically called genera, which include: Microsporum, Trichophyton, and Epidermophyton) they can cause infections that often look similar.
Risk Factors for These Infections Include:
- Genetic factors (including a predisposition to skin problems, “atopy”)
- Warm, moist conditions
- Communal bathing
- Weakened immune system (e.g., diabetes, cancer, AIDS, use of immunosuppressive drugs such as those in the cortisone family)
Recognizing Yeast Infections
These conditions often appear in warm, moist areas that favor yeast growth, such as between the webs of one’s toes, in the skin folds of overweight individuals, or in the private areas. The infection often presents as a red itchy rash. However, on exposed parts of the body, infection can manifest as “ring worm.”
Common Treatment Strategies:
- Keep affected areas as cool and dry as possible
- Avoid tight fitting garments
- Choose cotton as opposed to synthetic materials
- Dry affected areas thoroughly after bathing
- Do not vigorously rub with a towel as this can compromise skin integrity
- Instead pat dry with a towel, then finish drying using a hair dryer on the low heat setting
- If the rectal area is affected, keep the area totally clean of any stool remnants by washing the area with lukewarm water following defecation (then follow the practice of patting the area dry and using the blow dryer )
- Consider the use of natural compounds that are reputed to have antifungal properties:
- Garlic powder and/or garlic oil
- Tea tree oil
- The herb witch hazel is sometimes combined with calendula in a spray for fungal problems
- Tea tree oil and vinegar are among the more irritating of these compounds (generally avoid them on mucous membranes such as those found around the rectum or in the vaginal area)
- A significant percentage of people using tea tree oil become sensitive/allergic it; worsening of rashes while using this agent may be a sign of allergy
- Fungal (yeast) infections appear to thrive on sugar, some individuals report significant improvement by decreasing consumption of sweets
- Consider the use of agents with drying properties
- Applying calamine lotion twice per day (the zinc in this compound helps with skin healing)
- Soaking in a dilute Burow’s solution twice daily
- Consider the use of topical over-the-counter medications. Examples include:
- Miconazole 2% cream (e.g., Monistat brand)
- Clotrimazole 1% cream or lotion (e.g., Lotrimin or Mycelex brands)
- Ketoconazole 2% cream (e.g., Nizoral brand)
- Note: these agents are generally applied twice per week and continued for one to two weeks after the rash clears
- Selenium sulphide, 2.5% (e.g. Selsun brand) is an alternative topical agent. It can be applied to affected areas after an evening bath. It is then washed off the following morning.
- Oral medications such as itraconazole (Sporanox), fluconazole (Diflucan), and terbinafine (Lamisil) can be employed in more resistant cases. However, oral drugs carry generally greater risk of side effects.
- Some find that beneficial changes in intestinal microorganisms (known as “gut flora”) can also help with fungal problems. Strategies for enhancing intestinal flora include:
- Ingesting supplemental probiotics (so-called : “good bacteria”)
- Consuming “prebiotics” nondigestible fibers that favor the growth of good intestinal bacteria.
- Good sources of such agents are garlic, onions, and artichokes.
- Note: oral garlic may also be beneficial because of its anti-fungal properties. Deodorized garlic preparation are often preferred; taking 250-350 mg twice daily should provide 8,000-10,000 mcg of allicin daily.
- Block the cycle of itching and scratching that can keep the skin compromised and make it more difficult to clear the infection
- Cover affected areas at night so you will not unconsciously scratch while asleep
- Consider the use of Caladryl (Calomine lotion combined with the anti-itch Benadryl)
- Sometimes steroid creams are used. However, they can make it harder to clear the infection (they suppress the immune system) and they carry the risk of thinning of the skin.
- An oral antihistamine may also be warranted