Under the surface of our daily lives, a secret world exists that is dominated not by bacteria or viruses but rather by cunning and adaptable fungi. These mysterious organisms, with their alluring capacity for transformation and adaptation, hold the key to an exclusive domain of infections unmatched by anything else. They can live happily in their native environments, but once they get inside the human body, they turn into ruthless devils.
Imagine a group of fungi having a wild party in your toenails or creating a complex web of pain in the small crevices of your epidermis (the outer layer of your skin). These alluring invaders have the ability to go deep inside your lungs, where they can establish a camp and create havoc. Please don't worry, dear reader! Our exploration of fungal diseases will arm you with the knowledge and tactics necessary to outwit these crafty enemies.
When a microorganism enters a person's body and causes distress, this is referred to as an infection. The microbe survives, reproduces, and colonizes that person's body. However, not all microbes are harmful. A microbe becomes a pathogen when it comes with drastic consequences. Pathogens are infectious microscopic organisms that multiply quickly and harm an individual's body. Diseases can be passed from person to person by direct touch, airborne droplets, contaminated food or drink, or insect or animal bites(1). There are several forms of infections, and their severity varies based on the type of microbe, the afflicted location of the body, and the individual's general health. Some infections are minor and self-limiting, while others are serious and potentially fatal.
Fungi are a broad collection of organisms that may thrive in various conditions, such as soil, air, water, and plants, causing fungal illnesses. While most fungi are safe for humans, some can cause illnesses. Fungal infections, sometimes known as mycosis, are caused by various fungi that can infect many regions of the body, including the skin, nails, respiratory system, and internal organs. Fungi are abundant in the environment and are normally harmless, although select species can cause illnesses in humans and animals(2).
Factors influencing fungal infections
- Environmental exposure - Fungi in the environment, such as those found in soil or on plants, might increase the likelihood of acquiring fungal infections. This is especially true for people who work in specific vocations, such as farmers or construction workers.
- Weakened immune system - Fungal infections can be exacerbated by a compromised immune system caused by illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, or long-term use of immunosuppressive medicines.
- Poor hygiene - Poor hygiene can raise the risk of fungal infections, especially in difficult-to-clean body parts like the feet and groin.
- Age - Because of changes in the skin and immune system that occur with age, older persons are more susceptible to fungal infections(3,4).
Symptoms of Fungal infections
- Body pains
- Diarrhoea .
While keeping an eye out for the symptoms is useful, it is even more handy to understand potential causes for fungal diseases and what you can do to treat them if you have been afflicted.
Common fungal Diseases
We have delved into the nuances of signs and symptoms and the underlying causes of fungi infections, better preparing ourselves to face these mysterious foes. Now, it's time to bravely go into the infections themselves, which are the true source of the problem.
- Athlete’s foot (Tinea Pedis):
It is caused by a dermatophyte fungus that often grows between the toes. Damp surfaces in locker rooms, showers, and swimming pools are frequently to blame(6).
- Apply anti-fungal ointments
- Change your socks frequently
- Avoid walking barefoot
- Apply tea tree oil
- Maintain hygiene(7,4).
Two species of Cryptococcus viz., neoformans and gattii, infect humans mainly by inhalation of the fungus. This causes a lung infection, which can travel to the brain and cause a disease called meningoencephalitis(8,9).
- Depending on the patient’s condition, surgery may be required for removing the fungal mass
- Avoid going to places where there is excessive fungi growth(8).
- Vaginal yeast infection:
The fungus Candida albicans is responsible for most vaginal yeast infections. Inflammation, discharge, and extreme itching of the vagina and vulva — the tissues at the vaginal opening — caused by a fungal infection(10).
- Avoid scented feminine products
- Avoid unnecessary use of antibiotics which might kill your good bacteria
- Maintain proper sanitation
- Avoid hot tub baths
- Change your undergarments frequently(10).
Malassezia fungus forms on oily scalps due to excessive sebum production. This fungus feeds on the natural oils in the hair and only leaves the oleic acid left. The body responds to this shift by rapidly multiplying cells, resulting in degeneration of the skin on your scalp and white flaky particles that appear as dandruff in your hair(11).
- Use natural masks made of ginger, hibiscus, onion, and fenugreek
- Wash your hair often, with a mild shampoo
- Manage your stress levels(12).
- Ringworm (Tinea corporis):
Trichophyton, Microsporum, and Epidermophytonis cause ringworm. It is characterized by a red, round, flat sore that may be accompanied by scaly skin. The skin outside the sore may be elevated, while the skin in the centre seems normal. Red rings or patches may overlap(13).
- Apply anti-fungal ointments
- Avoid putting on bandages
- Maintain proper sanitation(14).
As we conclude our exhilarating exploration of fungal infections, we stand in awe of the complex tapestry that they weave within our lives. We have started on a journey of information and understanding, exploring the causes, signs, and stories of various illnesses. But keep in mind that our comprehension is merely the tip of the iceberg. The field of fungi infections is large, constantly changing, and full of unsolved puzzles. Let's embrace the joy that research offers as it points the way to better prevention and treatment and promises future breakthroughs. Keep your curiosity stoked because the fascinating world of fungal illnesses is still developing and enticing us towards a time when health will prevail over adversity.
(9) van Rhijn, N.; Bromley, M. The Consequences of Our Changing Environment on Life Threatening and Debilitating Fungal Diseases in Humans. J. Fungi 2021, 7 (5), 367. https://doi.org/10.3390/jof7050367.