Fungal Infections that Commonly happen in Adults

Fungal infections are among the most common germ infection known to man. They can affect the skin, hair and nails – as well as other parts of the body like the lungs. In this piece, we look at the common infections that affect adults.

Spiral arrangement of White leaves.


These terms describe various infections caused by the yeast Candida.

Candida affects many parts of the body including the mouth, genitals and skin. It is NOT a sexually transmitted infection but close contact can lead to the transfer of the yeast spores from one person to the next. The infections could be in the mouth/tongue : oral thrush or candidiasis.

In oral thrush, there are white patches in the mouth or tongue. The tongue could also be quite sore and red.

Genital thrush infections in the woman (vaginal thrush) are associated with a very itchy vaginal discharge; also there is burning sensation and soreness around the vulva which also feels swollen. Sex is painful as is passing urine because of the very irritated tissues.

Men can be affected by genital thrush, too. Known as Candida Balanitis, features are itching and burning sensation around the penis and scrotum – particularly worse after sex or passing urine. The surrounding skin may appear swollen or there may be a rash.

For oral thrush, the commonest cures are oral antifungal gels or drops. For more severe infection, antifungal tablets.

Treating genital thrush is done by using creams, many of which are sold over the counter; or tablets for more severe infections.

Jock Itch

This is a problem caused by a type of fungus called a Dermatophyte. It commonly affects the skin – in particular, areas of the body that are moist and warm such as the groin in men – hence the name ‘jock‘.

It is associated with an intensely itchy rash around the genitals. There is also a burning sensation to the skin, and a change to the natural skin colour may result.

Treatment is commonly with the use of antifungal creams, but ensuring to wash regularly, wear clean, dry and fresh underwear helps to avoid the development of the infection.


This is another type of Dermatophyte infection (similar to the one causing Jock Itch) and affects maily the skin and hair/scalp.

It is characterised by an itchy, scaly rash which looks red or darker than the surrounding skin.

The rashes form patches that can spread along the skin or the scalp to form distinct rings. These may form bald rings on the scalp, or the rings could blister and ooze a discharge. It could also affect the nails.

The treatment for Ringworm is antifungal medication usually in the form of creams/gels but for infections on the scalp or nails, presciption antifungals may be required.

Read MoreYour Complete Guide To Developing, Preventing and Treating Yeast Infections

Athlete’s Foot

Athlete’s foot mainly affect the feet and area in between the toes. Being another area that is warm and humid, it is a favoured site for infection by Dermatophytes; the same type of germs that cause Jock itch or Ringworm.

Apart from itchy, sore lesions along the toes, they also cause discolouration.

Athlete’s foot can be managed with antifungal creams, sprays or powders; but its important to keep the feet clean and dry with regular washing and cleaning; dry and clean footwear to reduce the opportunity for the fungi to grow.

Fungal Nail Infections/Onychomycosis

This is another common problem and several fungi can be responsible – commonly dermatophytes.

Infection can affect both the finger and toe nails and can be difficult to treat.

It may be common in people who have jobs where the hands are often immersed in water – manual workers who wear gloves or people in domestic or catering professions who do a lot of washing.

Treating fungal nail infections may require more than the common antifungal creams because the nails are tougher than skin and more difficult for the creams to penetrate.

They also require a longer period of sustained treatment after the diagnosis in order to get a cure – sometimes up to 6 months (fingernails) or 9 months (toe nails).

Most commonly, the nails become dry and develop a tough ridged appearance.

They lose the natural nail contour, become scaly and discoloured. The nail bed skin may also appear swollen and painful in some instances.

Onycholysis is the term used when the nail comes off the nail bed and can also be a symptom of fungal nail infection.

Other conditions like Psoriasis (a skin condition), trauma or certain medication can cause onycholysis.

Pityriasis Versicolor

This is the name of a rather common skin infection caused by more fungi – this time a yeast called Malassezia furfur.

It is common on the trunk, back or arms with flaky discoloured and multicoloured patches.

Most often it may look like patches that are lighter that the surrounding skin.

It can happen in people of all ages but more common in young people and men more than women.

Usually there are no symptoms but it may be slightly itchy in some.

Treatment is with the use of antifungal agents applied to the skin, but Malassezia can also recur after treatment.

More Reading:

Editing by AskAwayHealth Team


All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising  Medical Practitioners on a wide range of health care conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality health care. The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified health care practitioner.
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