Superficial Mycoses: Yeast Infections, Ringworm

There are over 200,000 species of fungi, among them only about a hundred can affect humans. Known as mycosis, they cover very different realities. Here is some general information about them as well as a focus on yeast infections and ringworm.

Fungal infections can be classified according to affected organs. Thus, when the skin and nails are involved, we talk about superficial mycoses. And when the fungus is present in the blood and can affect any organ, we talk about deep mycoses. These cases are much more annoying, especially for people whose natural defenses are weakened.

The most common and well-know fungal infections are yeast infections and ringworm.

Yeast infections

The fungi of the genus Candida cover more than 200 species, including twenty that are pathogenic to humans. Found both in the skin and in the mucous membranes, these yeasts can affect healthy individuals. These infections take advantage of an imbalance in the environment of the skin: microbial environment, acidity, concentration of nutrients.  Cutaneous yeast infections reach primarily the areas of sweating: armpits, finger areas, etc.. Mucosal and oral cavities, as well as the vaginal mucosa and the esophagus may be infected also.

Fortunately, the treatment of common yeast infections is usually quick and efficient. It is based on topical antifungal products.

The same species of Candida may be involved in systemic fungal infections that disseminate throughout the body. They are often the result of nosocomial infections. But in this case, the treatment is much heavier and there is a high risk of complications.


Ringworm is caused by fungi called dermatophytes, including the three species Trichophyton, Microsporum and Epidermophyton. These fungi are transmitted by an infected person or animal. To thrive, they need keratin and this is why they are found on the skin, on the nails and on the hair. Symptoms can vary but most often we find sharp-edged, round depilations,  rarely accompanied by itching.

When they reach the scalp, these fungi are called ringworm. Primarily affecting children, this infection is highly contagious.

The nails may also be infected, this is called onychomycosis. The nail has in this case a yellow or brown color or it has a white stain, and it will be deteriorating and getting thicker. Complications such as an ingrown toenail and pain can occur. These symptoms are however not sufficient to diagnose the infection and only a physician is authorized to diagnose it. Moreover, a laboratory analysis will eventually confirm the origin of the disorder.
The treatment of these mycoses such as ringworm is usually easy but long. It is based on antifungal products whose form varies depending on the location of the infection. It can be cured by powder, shower gel, cream, and sometimes an oral treatment. Preventive measures can reduce the risk of recurrence.

Another condition that affects mainly children is head lice. These are not fungi but parasites, tiny insects that spread through hair to hair contact and that feed on our blood on the scalp. They should be treated properly because if not eliminated they can cause various infections of the skin, including a bacterial infection called impetigo.