What causes fungal infections?

Different types of fungus cause a variety of fungal infections:

  • Athlete’s foot, jock itch, and ringworm are caused by a fungus called tinea.

  • Most yeast infections, such as vaginal thrush, oral thrush, and fungal gastroenteritis, are caused by a fungus called Candida albicans. Fungus can also cause fungal infections of the lungs due to inhaled fungal spores.

Certain factors or conditions can result in an overgrowth of fungus in the body. These include:

  • Taking antibiotics. Antibiotics can kill off “healthy” bacteria in the body, as well as bacteria that cause disease. When antibiotics kill the healthy bacteria, the normal balance of microorganisms in the mouth, vagina, intestines, and other places in the body is altered, resulting in an overgrowth of Candida albicans or other fungi.

  • Having a weakened immune system due to certain conditions, such as HIV/AIDS or taking steroid medications or chemotherapy

  • Having a weakened immune system due to certain conditions, such as HIV/AIDS, organ transplant recipient, or taking steroid medications or chemotherapy
  • Having high blood sugar due to diabetes, which provides food for Candida albicans and encourages its overgrowth

Fungal infections can also be passed from a pregnant woman to her infant during vaginal delivery or breastfeeding.

What are the risk factors for fungal infections?

A number of factors increase the risk of developing fungal infections. Not all people with risk factors will develop fungal infections. These factors include:

  • Being very young or very old
  • Douching or using feminine deodorants or scented tampons
  • Exposure to contaminated surfaces especially shower facilities, swimming pools, hot tubs/spas.
  • Having diabetes
  • Having a weakened immune system due to such conditions as HIV/AIDS, or taking steroid medications or chemotherapy
  • Organ transplant recipient
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Taking strong antibiotics, especially for long periods of time
  • Wearing tight-fitting underwear, thongs, jeans, or other pants if you are a female

Reducing your risk of fungal infections

You can lower your risk of developing or transmitting fungal infections by:

  • Avoiding douching
  • Changing tampons frequently
  • Cleansing the genitals daily with mild soap and water
  • Eating a well-balanced, healthy diet
  • Following your treatment plan for conditions, such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS
  • Getting early and regular prenatal care when pregnant
  • Not using feminine deodorants or scented or deodorant tampons
  • Not wearing tight-fitting underwear, thongs, jeans, or other pants if you are a female
  • Nursing women who have nipple discharge or pain should notify their provider so they can be examined for fungal infections of the nipples, which could be transmitted to the mouth of a nursing infant.
  • Regular application of medicated foot powder
  • Seeking regular routine medical care
  • Taking antibiotics only when prescribed by your health care professional and finishing the medication exactly as directed
  • Thorough drying of body surfaces after washing
  • Wearing cotton underwear

What are fungal infections?

Fungal infections are infections caused by a fungus, a type of microorganism. Two common causes of fungal infections are a fungus called tinea and yeast infections caused by the fungus Candida albicans.

Some very common types of fungal infections caused by tinea include:


What are the symptoms of fungal infections?

Symptoms of fungal infections differ depending on the type and severity of the infection, the area of the body affected, and individual factors.

Symptoms of athlete’s foot

Symptoms of athlete’s foot include:

  • Itching of the feet
  • Scaling and flaking of the skin of the feet

Symptoms of jock itch

Symptoms of jock i... Read more about fungal infectionssymptoms


How are fungal infections treated?

Treatment of fungal infections begins with seeking regular medical care throughout your life. Regular medical care allows your health care professional to assess your risks of developing fungal infections and promptly order diagnostic testing for fungal infections and underlying conditions as needed. These measures greatly increase the chances of diagnosing and treating underlying causes of fun... Read more about fungal infectionstreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 23, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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