Dermatology Center of Northwest Houston Dermatology Center of Northwest Houston - Lisa D Hitchins MD : (281) 256-2000
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Fungus Infections

Tinea Versicolor

Tinea versicolor is a cutaneous fungal infection characterized by small spots or patches of lighter skin. This is caused by the yeast Pityrosporum ovale, commonly found on skin. The patches appear lighter than the surrounding skin because this fungus prevents the skin from tanning. The patches appear mostly on the oily areas in the body like underarms, neck, chest, and back.

Causes

Tinea versicolor is a common infection and often affects individuals living in hot climates. The yeast is commonly found on skin but causes infection only under certain conditions. The conditions that increase the likelihood of infection include genetic predisposition, hot and humid climates, compromised immune system, poor nutrition, and Cushing disease. It commonly affects adolescent and young adults and is more common in males.

Diagnosis

Your skin will be examined for patches of discolored skin with sharp edges and fine scales on neck, back, chest, and underarms. Your dermatologist may also order a biopsy where your doctor will excise a piece of skin from the affected area and observe under a microscope. A Wood’s lamp is also used in diagnosing this skin condition. This lamp is kept 4 to 5 inches away from the affected area. If the skin is affected with tinea versicolor, then the affected part of skin appears yellowish-green.

Treatment

Tinea VersicolorAntifungal medications remain the mainstay of treatment. You may be advised to use topical applications such as ointments or creams. These preparations contain selenium sulfide, ketoconazole, clotrimazole, miconazole, or pyrithione zinc. Your dermatologist may even suggest you take oral anti-fungal pills in severe cases. To avoid recurrence, you should avoid exposure to extreme climatic conditions and use medicated skin cleansers.

Treatment clears the infection however the patches may take some time to disappear. Sun exposure will also help to maintain the skin color of the patches as well as the other unaffected areas.

Athlete's Foot

Athlete's foot is a fungal infection on the skin of the foot. It is characterized by itchy, moist, white, scaly lesions between the toes that can spread to the sole of the foot. Athlete's foot is contagious and spreads through contact with infected skin scales or fungi in moist areas such as swimming pools and bathrooms, or from sharing shoes of an infected person or having contact with pets carrying the fungi. It is a chronic infection that can recur after treatment.

A common symptom of athlete's foot is moist, itchy, scaly lesions between the toes; another form presents as dry, peeling skin between the toes. The area often becomes red and itchy. You may also feel a burning sensation between your toes. If the infection spreads to your toenails, they can become thick and discolored.

Treatment

Treatment of athlete’s foot includes antifungal skin creams or oral medicines containing miconazole, clotrimazole, or tolnafate. The skin creams should be applied to the affected area in small amounts at least once a day. You should continue applying the cream daily for 1 - 2 weeks, even after the infection clears from your feet to prevent the infection from recurring. A medicated powder may also be given to help keep the feet dry. The fungal infection can last three to four weeks.

Preventive Tips
  • Wash your feet every day with soap and water
  • Keep your feet clean and dry, preferably between your toes
  • Keep your nails short and clean because nails can house the fungi and spread the infection
  • Wear clean socks made of cotton, and change them often in order to keep your feet dry
  • Avoid walking barefoot in public areas. Wear proper shoes that support good air circulation to your feet
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