Mycotic Infection

Mycotic infections take various forms but they are all caused by a fungus. Treatment can range from minimal and straightforward to intensive, depending on the type of fungus causing the infection and the severity of the patient’s condition.

What is a mycotic infection?

A mycotic infection can range from a relatively minor medical complaint to a life-threatening medical emergency. Also known as fungal infections, mycotic infections can occur anywhere in the body but are particularly common on the skin.

The severity of mycotic infections, or mycoses, depend on the areas of the body which have been penetrated by the infection. A superficial mycotic infection affects just the outer layers of hair and skin, for example. Conversely, cutaneous mycotic infections affect the keratinized layers of the hair, nails and skin.

More serious examples of mycotic infections include subcutaneous, system mycoses due to primary pathogen and system mycoses due to an opportunistic pathogen. In these cases, the fungal infection can affect the muscles, subcutaneous systems and organs.

As mycotic infections can worsen and spread to other areas, it’s vital that they are treated as quickly as possible and the risk of complications minimized.

What are the symptoms of a mycotic infection?

There are numerous different types of fungi and, therefore, fungal infections. Due to this, the symptoms of a mycotic infection vary, depending on the specific condition and type of fungus which is affecting the patient.

When a mycotic infection affects the skin, however, the patient may exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Skin irritation
  • Itching
  • Redness of the skin
  • Crusty, thickened patches of skin
  • Pain and discomfort
  • Dry or scaly skin

While each type of mycotic infection affecting the skin may produce slightly different symptoms, the above symptoms commonly occur as a result of these types of infections.

If an individual contracts a more severe mycotic infection, such as a systemic infection, they may experience a wide range of symptoms, including:

  • Inflammation of the brain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Lesions on the skin
  • Infection of the bones

Although severe mycotic infections can be fatal if left untreated, milder mycotic infections are extremely common and highly treatable. While relatively minor mycotic infections can cause uncomfortable and irritating symptoms, the vast majority of mycotic infections affecting the skin can be fully treated with topical or oral medications.

What causes a mycotic infection?

Fungal infections are typically very contagious and it’s easy for an individual to contract an infection from another person. For example, a person may contract Tinea Pedis (Athlete’s Foot) merely by walking barefoot in the same area as someone else who has the condition.

If a person with a mycotic infection sheds fungal spores, these can easily attach to another individual. When this happens, the mycotic infection is transferred to the second person and they may develop symptoms of the condition.

Furthermore, fungi thrive in certain environments. Wet, moist, hot and humid environments enable fungi to grow, for example. Due to this, mycotic infections often affect parts of the body which are subject to sweating. If an individual does not take steps to keep their skin dry, it may increase the risk of developing a mycotic infection.

When systemic mycotic infections occur, the fungus typically gains entry to the body via the paranasal sinuses, lungs, skin or gut. Once this happens, the mycotic infection can occur in tissue within the body, as well as in the body’s organs.

Can a mycotic infection be treated?

Mycotic infections generally respond well to treatment and over-the-counter solutions may be available for some types of fungal infections. Yeast infections are commonly treated with over-the-counter lotions, for example, and these can be effective in resolving the infection and reducing that patient’s symptoms.

While over-the-counter treatments are available for relatively minor and common fungal infections, further treatment may be required if the patient’s condition is severe, does not improve or is a rare type of mycotic infection. In such cases, physicians may need to take scrapings from the skin so that the type of fungus causing the infection can be analyzed and identified.

Following this, the appropriate treatment can be commenced. When mycotic infections affect the skin, prescription-strength topical anti-fungal creams and lotions may be used. In addition to this, patients may be prescribed additional medications, such as steroids, to reduce inflammation and minimize their symptoms.

If the patient’s symptoms persist, despite treatment with prescription-strength topical treatments, oral anti-fungal medication may be prescribed. This is stronger than topical lotions and more suited to widespread, stubborn infections which have not responded to previous treatment.

Whilst oral antibiotics can also be used to treat systemic mycotic infections, more intensive treatment may be required in some cases. If necessary, anti-fungal medication can be administered intravenously, although this is only usually required in the most serious cases of mycotic infections.

Can mycotic infections be prevented?

As mycotic infections are highly contagious, it can be difficult to avoid contracting them. However, there are ways in which people can reduce the risk of contracting a fungal infection. These may include:

  • Avoiding skin-to-skin contact with an infected person
  • Keeping skin clean and dry
  • Limiting time spent in shared environments, such as locker rooms
  • Boosting the immune system

Many mycotic infections are spread from one individual to another. If you are aware that a person has an existing mycotic infection, avoid having any skin-to-skin contact with them until their condition has been fully resolved.

In addition to this, people may be able to prevent a mycotic infection by keeping their skin clean and dry at all times. If you engage in regular exercise, for example, you may want to wear clothes which are designed to wick sweat away from the body, thus preventing the skin from remaining sweaty and moist.

Similarly, taking appropriate precautions in shared environments can help to prevent fungal infections. Wearing shower shoes in a locker room or whilst swimming may help to stop fungal spores from adhering to the soles of your feet, for example, and this could prevent an infection from being contracted.

People with suppressed or lowered immune systems can be prone to mycotic infections. If individuals are aware that their immunity is low, they should take special precautions to avoid contracting any type of infection. This may mean temporarily avoiding large groups of people or shared environments. In addition to this, individuals can take steps to improve their immunity, if they are able to do so.

Whilst it may not always be possible to avoid a fungal infection, these measures can help to significantly reduce the risk of contracting a mycotic infection.