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What causes skin yeast infections: Symptoms, Types, Causes, and Treatments

Symptoms, Types, Causes, and Treatments

Written by WebMD Editorial Contributors

  • What Is a Fungal Infection?
  • Fungal Infection Symptoms
  • Types of Fungal Infections
  • Athlete’s Foot
  • Jock Itch
  • Ringworm
  • Yeast Infections
  • More

A fungal infection, also called mycosis, is a skin disease caused by a fungus.

There are millions of species of fungi. They live in the dirt, on plants, on household surfaces, and on your skin. Sometimes, they can lead to skin problems like rashes or bumps.

A fungal skin infection might cause:

  • Irritation
  • Scaly skin
  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Blisters

Fungal skin infections can happen anywhere on your body. Some of the most common are athlete’s foot, jock itch, ringworm, and yeast infections.

Athlete’s foot, also called tinea pedis, is a fungal infection of your foot.

The fungi grow best in warm, moist places such as shoes, socks, swimming pools, locker rooms, and public showers. They’re often found in the summer and in hot, humid climates. It happens more often in people who wear tight shoes, who don’t change their sweaty socks, and who use public baths and pools.

Athlete’s foot causes

The fungi behind athlete’s foot live on the dead tissue of your hair, toenails, and outer skin layers. At least four kinds of fungus can cause the infection. The most common is Trichophyton rubrum.

Athlete’s foot symptoms

Signs of athlete’s foot vary from person to person. You might have:

  • Peeling, cracking, and scaly feet
  • Blisters
  • Skin that’s red, softened, or broken down
  • Itching
  • Burning

Types of athlete’s foot

  • Interdigital. This is also called toe web infection. Most people with athlete’s foot have this form. It usually occurs between your two smallest toes. The infection can spread to the sole of your foot.
  • Moccasin.  This form can begin with irritation, dryness, itching, or scaly skin. Over time, your skin may thicken and crack. This infection can involve your entire sole and extend onto the sides of your foot.
  • Vesicular. This is the rarest kind of athlete’s foot. It usually begins with a sudden outbreak of fluid-filled blisters, often on the underside of your foot. They also can appear between your toes, on your heel, or on top of your foot.

Athlete’s foot diagnosis

Not all itchy, scaly feet are caused by a fungus. Your doctor may scrape off a bit of skin and look at it under a microscope to check for a different condition.

Athlete’s foot treatment

Your doctor might give you antifungal medicine to put on your skin or, in severe cases, another kind to take by mouth. Be sure to keep your feet clean and dry.

Athlete’s foot prevention

To keep from getting athlete’s foot, wear shower sandals in public showering areas, wear shoes that let your feet breathe, and wash your feet every day with soap and water. Dry them thoroughly, and use a quality foot powder.

A type of fungus called tinea causes jock itch. The infection is also known as tinea cruris. Tinea loves warm, moist areas like your genitals, inner thighs, and buttocks. Infections happen more often in the summer or in warm, wet climates.

Jock itch is a red, itchy rash that’s often ring-shaped.

Is jock itch contagious?

It’s only mildly contagious. It can spread from person to person through direct contact or indirectly through objects with the fungus on them.

Jock itch symptoms

Symptoms of jock itch include:

  • Itching, chafing, or burning on your groin or thigh
  • A red, circular, rash with raised edges
  • Redness on your groin or thigh
  • Flaking, peeling, or cracking skin

Jock itch diagnosis

Doctors can usually diagnose it by what it looks like and where it is on your body. They might look at a sample of skin under a microscope to be sure.

Jock itch treatment

Keep the affected area clean and dry. Over-the-counter antifungal medicines can treat most cases of jock itch. In severe cases, your doctor might need to give you a prescription cream. No matter your treatment, be sure to:

  • Wash and dry the area with a clean towel
  • Use the antifungal medicine as directed
  • Change clothes — especially your underwear — every day

Ringworm, also called tinea corporis, isn’t a worm but a fungal skin infection.  It’s named for its ring-shaped rash with a winding, worm-like edge.

Is ringworm contagious?

Ringworm can spread through direct contact with infected people or animals. You can also pick it up off clothing or furniture. Heat and humidity can help spread the infection.

Ringworm symptoms

Ringworm is a red, circular, flat sore that can happen along with scaly skin. The outer part of the sore might be raised while the skin in the middle appears normal. Patches or red rings may overlap.

Ringworm diagnosis

Your doctor can diagnose ringworm based on your symptoms. They might ask whether you’ve come into contact with infected people or animals. They might also take samples from the area and look at them under a microscope to be sure.

Ringworm treatment

Treatment usually involves antifungal medications that you put on your skin. You might use an over-the-counter cream such as:

  • Clotrimazole (Lotrimin, Mycelex)
  • Miconazole (Micatin, Monistat-Derm)
  • Terbinafine (Lamisil)

In more severe cases, you might need prescription medications to put on your skin or take by mouth.

Yeast infections of your skin are called cutaneous candidiasis. A type of fungus called candida causes these infections when it grows too much. Yeast infections aren’t contagious.

The infections are most common in warm, moist, creased areas of your body, including your armpits and groin. They often happen in people who are obese or who have diabetes. People taking antibiotics are also at higher risk.

Candida can cause diaper rash in infants. It can also cause infections in your nails, vagina, or mouth (oral thrush).

Yeast infection symptoms

Signs of a yeast infection on your skin include:

  • Rash
  • Patches that ooze clear fluid
  • Pimple-like bumps
  • Itching
  • Burning

Signs of a yeast infection in your nail beds include:

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Pus
  • A white or yellow nail that separates from the nail bed

Signs of thrush (yeast infection of your mouth) include:

  • White patches on your tongue and inside your cheeks
  • Pain

Signs of a vaginal yeast infection include:

  • White or yellow discharge from your vagina
  • Itching
  • Redness in the external area of your vagina
  • Burning

Yeast infection diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your medical history and do a physical exam. They might also take a sample from the affected area to look at under a microscope.

Yeast infection treatment

Treatment depends on the infection. Medicated creams can treat most skin yeast infections. For a vaginal infection, you can usually use medicated suppositories. A medicated mouthwash or lozenges that dissolve in your mouth may treat oral thrush. If you have a severe infection or a weakened immune system, you might need anti-yeast medications that you take by mouth.

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Ringworm: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments

Written by WebMD Editorial Contributors

  • What Is Ringworm?
  • What Are the Symptoms Of Ringworm?
  • How Do You Get Ringworm?
  • How Do I Know If I Have Ringworm?
  • What’s the Treatment For Ringworm?
  • How Can I Prevent Ringworm?
  • More

Ringworm isn’t a worm. It’s a skin infection that’s caused by moldlike fungi that live on the dead tissues of your skin, hair, and nails. You can get it in any of these places — and on your scalp.

When you get it between your toes, it’s what people call athlete’s foot. If it spreads to your groin, it’s known as jock itch.


The telltale sign is a red, scaly patch on light skin or brown or gray patches on skin of color. You may also get bumps that itch. Over time, the bump turns into a ring- or circle-shaped patch. It may turn into several rings. The inside of the patch is usually clear or scaly. The outside might be slightly raised and bumpy.

Ringworm on your scalp tends to start out as a bump or small sore. It may turn flaky and scaly, and your scalp may feel tender and sore to the touch. You may notice that your hair starts to fall out in patches.

Ringworm will often look red on light skin, but brown or gray on skin of color. Most ringworm of the skin can be treated at home with creams you can buy without a prescription. Photo credit: iStock/Getty Images

Ringworm is highly contagious. You can catch it in any of the following ways:

  • From another person. Ringworm often spreads by skin-to-skin contact.
  • From your pets. Rubbing or grooming Sparky? Wash your hands when you’re finished. It’s also very common in cows.
  • By touching objects. The fungus that causes ringworm can linger on surfaces, clothes, towels, and in combs and brushes.
  • From soil. If you’re working or standing barefoot in soil that’s infected with the fungus that causes ringworm, you can get it, too.

You’ll have to see your doctor to be sure if the infection is ringworm. There are a number of other skin conditions that look like it.

Your doctor will probably scrape some skin from the itchy, scaly areas and look at them under a microscope.

How the infection is treated depends on where it is and how bad it is. In many cases, your doctor may recommend an over-the-counter (OTC) medicine you can get at the drugstore. If the ringworm is on your skin, an OTC antifungal cream, lotion, or powder may work just fine. Some of the most popular ones are clotrimazole (Lotrimin, Mycelex) and miconazole.

In most cases, you’ll have to use the medicines on your skin for 2 to 4 weeks to make sure you kill the fungus that causes ringworm. It also will lower its chance of coming back.

If you have ringworm on your scalp or in many different places on your body, OTC treatments probably won’t be enough. Your doctor will have to write you a prescription.

Keep an eye out for symptoms that get worse or don’t clear up after 2 weeks. If they don’t, call your doctor.

The fungi that cause it are everywhere. Still, here are some things you can do to lower your chances of getting ringworm or stop it from spreading:

  • Keep your skin clean and dry.
  • Wear flip-flops in locker rooms and public showers.
  • Change your socks and underwear at least once each day.
  • Don’t share clothes or towels with someone who has ringworm.
  • If you play sports, keep your gear and uniform clean — and don’t share them with other players.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after playing with pets. If your pets have ringworm, see your vet.

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Yeast infections (fungus) in women

Every woman will experience a yeast infection at some point in her life. A yeast infection is an irritating infection of the vagina and vulva that causes itching, discharge, and irritation. This is a type of vaginitis caused by an overgrowth of a yeast known as Candida albicans and is often easily treated at home, but can sometimes be severe enough to require a visit to a doctor.

On average, three out of four women experience a yeast infection. Some women have several throughout their lives. Although this disease is not considered a sexually transmitted disease, the fungus can be spread through oral contact with the female genitalia. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of a yeast infection and when you should see your OB/GYN.

Signs and symptoms of yeast infections

Signs and symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection can range from mild to more severe. These include the following:

  • burning sensation, especially when urinating or during intercourse;
  • itching and irritation in the vagina and vulva;
  • redness and swelling of the vulva;
  • thick, white or greyish vaginal discharge resembling cottage cheese;
  • vaginal rash;
  • pain and soreness in the vagina;
  • watery vaginal discharge.

Yeast infection risk factors

There are certain risk factors that can lead to the development of a yeast infection. These include the following:

  • taking antibiotics;
  • lack of sleep;
  • hormonal imbalance during the menstrual cycle;
  • taking hormone therapy or oral contraceptives;
  • stress;
  • malnutrition, especially when eating too many sugary foods;
  • pregnancy;
  • diabetes;
  • weakened immune system;
  • wearing clothes that are too tight.

A yeast infection can be caused by a number of reasons, but the most common cause is the fungus Candida albicans. The vagina has a natural balance of this substance, as well as other bacteria. However, in some cases there may be an overgrowth of Candida, leading to the development of a yeast infection. As a result, you may experience a combination of classic symptoms such as burning, itching, and soreness. Even women who are not sexually active can develop this infection.

Sometimes other types of Candida can also cause a yeast infection, but most drugs, especially over-the-counter ones, are for Candida albicans. If you develop a yeast infection caused by another type of Candida, treatment may be more difficult. If more aggressive treatment is needed, you may need to make an appointment with an OB/GYN.

Diagnosis of yeast infections

When you visit your OB/GYN, the doctor will run a test to determine if you have a yeast infection:

  • Review of medical history, including any past vaginal infections or sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Visual examination of the pelvis, external and internal parts of the vagina.
  • Biosampling, a sample of vaginal secretions, to determine what type of fungus is causing the infection.

Yeast infection treatment

Treatment for a simple yeast infection is usually straightforward for most women and may include the following options:

  • Prescription antifungal cream, ointment, suppositories, or tablets that last one, three, or seven days.
  • Single dose oral preparations
  • An over-the-counter antifungal cream or suppository that lasts three to seven days.

For more complex yeast infections, a doctor may suggest the following treatment options:

  • Prescription antifungal cream, ointment, suppositories, or tablets that last up to 14 days.
  • Multi-dose oral preparations.
  • Maintenance plan for recurrent yeast infections. (This type of treatment usually lasts longer than 14 days and may require oral medication once a week for six months or vaginal suppositories once a week.)

Visit your obstetrician-gynecologist. A yeast infection can be uncomfortable and affect your emotional state, but the problem is treatable. Check with your doctor so you can take action in time to avoid infection in the future.

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