05 May 2009

Fungal infection

Fungal infections are due to microscopic organisms that live on the dead keratin on the surface of the skin, hair and nails.


Fungal infections are due to microscopic organisms that live on the dead keratin on the surface of the skin, hair and nails.

The situation may occur because of poor hygiene, but some people seem to be more prone than others to picking up these types of infections. Removing one’s socks in public places for sporting or religious purposes will certainly encourage the spread of athlete’s foot.

Athlete’s foot
This usually starts between the toes and may spread to the rest of the foot. Cracking and discomfort may alert you. Fine scaling across the foot may follow. A common presentation is intermittent, itchy blistering of the instep.

The wearing of tackies, which make the feet hot, may worsen the condition.

Dhobie itch
This is a red rash in the groin that tends to spread out onto the thigh with a distinct scaly edge. It does not affect the scrotum or penis. It may be spread by sharing towels.

This occurs most frequently in children and is identified by the presence of broken hairs and scaly skin on the scalp. It may spread to the face or, less commonly, to other areas.

Self care

Athlete’s foot

  • Dry well especially between the toes.
  • Use an antifungal cream containing clotrimazole, miconazole or terbinafine (Lamisil) until clear.
  • After clearing, go back to the daily use of a foot powder.
  • It is best, but probably impossible, to avoid hot footwear.
  • Change your socks daily.
  • Wear slip-slops in communal showers, locker rooms etc.

Dhobie itch

  • Dry well.
  • Avoid chafing. A male talc will actually lubricate the area.

Scalp ringworm

  • Prevent other children from using the same brush, comb, towel etc.
  • Seek medical help.

If any of the presumed fungal rashes persists or you suspect scalp ringworm, there is highly effective systemic treatment available. Remember that some people are particularly susceptible to re-infection, particularly of the feet.


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Skin expert

Dr Suretha Kannenberg holds a degree in Medicine and a Masters in Dermatology from the University of Stellenbosch. She is employed as a consultant dermatologist by Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Academic Hospital, where she is involved in clinical duties and the training of medical students and dermatology residents. Her areas of interest and research include vitiligo, eczema and acne. She also performs limited private practice work in the Northern suburbs of Cape Town in general and cosmetic dermatology.

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