What Are the Treatments for Fungus on the Skin?
Most likely, you've seen the commercials. A bright yellow fungus saying, "I'm a dermatophyte," peels back a toenail and hops underneath to join his buddies in a feeding frenzy. In reality, a dermatophyte is a type of fungus that causes common skin, nail and hair disorders, including ringworm and jock itch.
Dermatophytes are fungal infections that infect keratinized tissue. The uppermost layer of skin, comprised of keratinized cells, or cells that have flattened, dried out and died, create the perfect host environment for dermatophytes.
As hair shafts and fingernails and toenails are also comprised of keratinized cells, certain dermatophytes specifically target those areas. Further, the fungus thrives in dark, moist, warm environments. Athlete's foot is an example of a dermatophyte infection, as the fungus thrives in the area between toes. Scalp ringworm is another example.
When an outbreak is localized, a topical ointment may clear it up. Treatment can take 6 to 8 weeks, and sometimes longer. Directions call for twice daily applications. Topical medications to treat a dermatophyte infection include terbinafine, of which Lamisil is one brand name, clotrimazole such as Lotrimin, Mycelex, and econazole, or Spectazole.
Ciclopirox, or Penlac, is an antifungal lacquer that may be prescribed for mild to moderate cases of onychomycosis, which is a fungal nail infection caused by dermatophytes. To prepare the nail, a physician may file away as much of the infected nail as possible. Similar to a nail polish, this medication is painted onto nails once daily. Once a week, the built-up layers are removed with alcohol and the treatment begins again. The treatment can take up to a year.
Because of the difficulty in treating onychomycosis with topical medications, a systemic antifungal is often prescribed. Itraconazole, or Sporanox, and terbinafine, Lamisil, are common prescriptions. Mayo Clinic reports that treatment may last 6 to 12 weeks.
Because these antifungals make it possible for a new, uninfected nail to grow, rather than treating the existing diseased nail, full treatment is realized only after the new nail has fully grown in, which can take months. Recurrence is a possibility, especially in people whose hands and feet continue to be exposed to moist environments.
For tinea capitis--a fungal infection of the scalp--riseofulvin is often prescribed. An extensive infection, this affects multiple areas of the body and may require oral medication. As with tinea capitis, riseofulvin may be prescribed.
In most cases, a dermatophyte infection cannot be fully cured with home remedies. Antifungal medications are often needed. Anecdotal reports suggest that soaking feet daily in 1 part vinegar to 2 parts warm water can inhibit growth. Other reports claim that Vick's Vaporub applied to the nail may work.
There are certain things you can do to treat symptoms, limit the spread of infection, lessen the severity and keep yourself more comfortable. Tight shoes and clothing, as well as synthetic materials that trap air and moisture, encourage fungus to flourish.
While treating the infection, wear loose, natural fibers and use socks that keep moisture away from feet. Better yet, keep feet exposed to dry air. Dusting the feet and other affected areas with cornstarch also helps to keep moisture at bay.
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