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Fungal Infection

Fungi are basically "simple" plants. Although widespread in nature, there are only a few that can affect the human body.

These fall into two groups:-
* Dermatophytes
* Yeasts

Dermatophytes are responsible for the majority of fungal infections that affect the body. They survive on dead keratin (a protein found in the nails, hair and the outermost layer of skin). When immunosuppression is involved the dermatophyte infection can penetrate into deeper layers of skin and in extremely severe cases can affect the body systemically.

There are three types of dermatophytes:
- Trichophyton – infecting the hair, nails & skin
- Microsporum – infecting the hair and skin
- Epidermophyton – infecting the skin & nails

Yeast infections are more commonly caused by Candida albicans. Over 100 species of the yeast genus have been identified – most of which do not affect the human body. Candida albicans and other human pathogenic species usually colonize the human gastrointestinal tract. Bowel colonization affects between 40-60% of the population and this increases after any antibacterial/antibiotic medications. Throat and oral colonization affects approx. 20% of healthy individuals, while 13% of women are affected vaginally due to antibiotic treatment, pregnancy and oral contraception.


TINEA CAPITIS (Ringworm of the scalp)
Tines capitis most often presents in pre-adolescent children. It is highly infectious and can be spread by direct contact, clothing, hairdressing implements or contact with infected animals.

If infected by the fungi from animal contact, the resulting lesions are more intensly inflamed than those caused by the fungi that has been transmitted person to person.

Most cases of tinea capitis begins with one or several patches of scaling and/or hair loss (alopecia).

“Gray Patch Ringworm” – presents as round or irregular scaly lesions of greyish-white patches. The hair breaks off at about 3-4mm above the skin surface. The hair roots are often covered in a “sheath” of white debris. Normal healing rarely results in any scaring.

“Kerion” – an extremely painful swollen and purulent inflamed nodule with multiple dark red, round or oval abscesses in various stages of formation. Pus is often draining from one or more ruptured abscesses which gives a “honeycomb” appearance to the skin surface. The hair falls out rather than breaking off. In extremely severe cases the entire scalp can be infected.

“Favus” – rare in Western countries, this form of Tinea capitis is caused by Trichophyton schoenleinii. Accompanied by extensive hair loss, which can become permanent. Scaring and thick yellowish brown crusts (scutula) develop, giving off a putrid odour.

TINEA MANUUM (Ringworm of the Hand)
A chronic dermatophytosis of the hands caused by Trichophyton rubrum, involving the palm and the webbing between the fingers.

It occasionally can also infect the back of the hands and can be accompanied by Tinea pedis (Athlete’s Foot). In its initial presentation small transparent pinpoint vesicles appear. These quickly rupture and as they dry up the hands become covered in layers of fine, white scales. If left untreated the affected skin becomes extremely dry, thickened and rough. Fissures or cracking will result, often causing pain and difficulty in bending or stretching of the fingers. The nails may also become infected.


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