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Skin mycoses (superficial skin mycoses)

What is it?

Skin mycoses, in some cases called "tineas", are fungal infections affecting the skin, nails and hair. Fungi are everywhere and can be found in soil and animals. Even in our skin, fungi are living "peacefully" without causing disease.

The keratin, a substance found in the skin, hair and nails, is the "food" for these fungi. When conditions are favorable for their growth, such as heat, humidity, low immunity or use of systemic antibiotics for long-term, which may change the balance of the skin, these fungi reproduce and then start to cause diseases.

Characteristics and symptoms

There are various manifestations of superficial skin mycoses, depending on the affected area and also ont the type of fungus. Some of the most common types are:

  • Tinea of the body, ringworm: rounded or annular lesion, which begins as a small red spot that grows and forms a ring with reddish and scaly edges, with the center of the lesion tending to heal. Itching is frequent.

  • Tinea of the head: most common in children, forms rounded areas with no hair, like if the hair have been cut close to the scalp in these places. It is very contagious.
  • Tinea of the feet: it causes scaling and itching on the soles of feet, which goes up to its sides.

  • Interdigital Tinea: cause scaling, maceration (skin gets whitish and humid) and itching between the toes. Quite often in the feet, due to the constant use of closed shoes that retains moisture, it may also occur in the hands, especially in those who work with soap and water. Learn more.
  • Inguinal tinea (tinea cruris, mycosis of the groin): reddish and scaly areas with limited borders, may grow into the thighs and buttocks, accompanied by itching. Learn more.

  • Onychomycosis (nail mycosis): presents several forms, as detachment of the free edge of the nail, thickening, white patches on the surface or deformation of the nail. When fungus affects the skin around the nail, causes paronychia, in which the nail contour becomes inflamed, painful, swollen and reddened and therefore changes the formation of the nail. Learn more.
  • Candidiasis: caused by the yeast Candida albicans, forms reddish and humid lesions, which expand forming satellite spots around the area most affected. Usually accompanied by a lot of itching. Learn more.

  • Pityriasis versicolor: light spots covered with fine scales, easily demonstrated by stretching the skin. It affects mainly the areas of increased production of sebum as the trunk, face, neck and scalp. Learn more.
  • Tinea nigra: manifested by the formation of dark spots on the palms or soles. It is asymptomatic.
  • Black piedra: manifested by tiny black nodules glued to the hair. It is asymptomatic.
  • White Piedra: manifested by white or light colored concretions adhered to the hair. Mainly affects the pubic and axillary hair and lesions may be removed easily by pulling them toward the end of the hair shaft.


Hygiene habits are important to prevent fungal infections. The tips below should be followed:

  • Always dry yourself well after bathing, especially the skin folds such as armpits, groin and toes.
  • Avoid using wet clothes for long periods.
  • Avoid prolonged contact with water and soap.
  • Do not use personal items (clothes, shoes, combs, towels, caps) of others.
  • Do not walk barefoot on floors constantly wet.
  • Note the skin and hair of your dogs and cats. Any change as scaling or absense of hair should be evaluated by a vet.
  • Avoid contact with soil without using gloves.
  • Avoid wearing closed shoes as possible. Opt for wider and ventilated ones.
  • Avoid warm and tight clothes. Avoid synthetic fabrics, especially in underwear. Prefer cotton.

The treatment will depend on the type of mycosis and should determined by a dermatologist. Avoid using drugs indicated by friends because they can mask important features for the correct diagnosis of your condition.

Local medications, in the form of creams, lotions and powders, or oral medications, may be used, depending on the severity of the condition.

The treatment of mycosis is always prolonged, ranging from about 30-60 days. Do not stop the treatment as the symptoms finish, because the fungus in the deeper layers may resist. Continue using the medication as long as your doctor prescribed.

Fungal infections of the nails are more difficult to treat and it may be necessary to maintain the medication for more than twelve months. Persistence is crucial to achieve success in these cases.

Related articles

- Fungal infections of the nails
- Sporotrichosis

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