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Fungal Infection

Fungal infection is a common infection in the tropics. There are different types of fungal infection but most of them favour areas of the body which are moist and sweaty like the feet, toes, groins, buttocks and nails. Some people with depressed immune response like diabetes can also have more recurrent or widespread fungal infections.

Fungal infection may be treated with creams if it is not severe. If it does not respond to creams, oral medication with anti-fungal tablets may be required. These are prescribed for 1 week to 3 months, depending on the site and severity of infection and the type of medication used. Sometimes skin or nail tests may be performed to confirm the fungal infection before starting treatment.


Tinea versicolor usually does not cause any symptoms but sometimes causes itching. However, it does cause many tan, brown, salmon, or white scaly patches to appear on the trunk, neck, abdomen, and occasionally the face. The patches may join to form larger patches. The patches do not tan, so in summer, when the surrounding skin tans, the patches may become obvious. People with naturally dark skin may notice lighter patches. People with naturally fair skin may get darker or lighter patches. Tinea versicolor is a mild infection and is not considered contagious.


Antifungal creams applied directly to the affected areas (topical), such as ketoconazole or terbinafinecream, may be used, as well as terbinafine solution spray. Prescription-strength selenium sulfide lotion is effective if applied to the affected areas (including the scalp) for 10 minutes a day for 2 weeks. Prescription ketoconazole shampoo is also effective. It is applied and washed off in 5 minutes. It is used as a single application or daily for 3 days. Other treatments include applying topical ketoconazole daily for 2 weeks and bathing with zinc pyrithione soap or sulfur-salicylic shampoo for 1 to 2 weeks.

Antifungal drugs taken by mouth, such as ketoconazole or fluconazole, are sometimes used to treat a widespread infection (see Table: Overview of Fungal Infections : Treatment). In addition, some people prefer the convenience of a drug taken by mouth. However, because these drugs may cause unwanted side effects and because tinea versicolor is a mild infection, topical drugs are usually preferred. Drugs taken by mouth do not prevent recurrence.

To lower the chance of recurrence, many doctors recommend practicing meticulous hygiene and using zinc pyrithione soap regularly or one of the other topical treatments monthly.

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