Risk Factors for Fungal Infections

Monday 5 April 2021
Infections

Table of Contents


I. Environmental Risk Factors

II. Vascular Health

III. Hormonal Changes

IV. Immune System Health

V. Skin Injuries

VI. Medications and Good Bacteria


If you have experienced a fungal infection before, you will know how much discomfort they can cause. While they rarely lead to severe complications, skin infections like athlete’s foot, ringworm, jock itch, and yeast infections can cause fluid-filled blisters, itching, hair loss, and many other painful symptoms. Fungal skin infections are commonly treated with antifungal medications like Diflucan (fluconazole)Lotriderm (clotrimazole)Spectazole (econazole), and Vermox (mebendazole). Anyone can develop a fungal infection, but some factors can increase your risk. Read on to learn about the risk factors for fungal infections.

someone applying a bandage

Environmental Risk Factors

Fungi thrive in damp and humid environments, making them very likely to grow in moist surroundings like gyms, locker room floors, sweaty socks, and shared showers. If you frequently walk barefoot in these places, your risk of contracting a fungal infection is increased. Fungi also love warm places, so those who live closer to the equator, where it tends to be hotter and more humid, are likelier to develop a fungal infection than people living in dryer climates. [1]  

Vascular Health

A healthy immune system is vital for defending the body against fungal infections. Poor blood circulation and an unhealthy vascular system can significantly reduce your immune system’s ability to fight off intruders. To manage your fungal infection risk, it is important to avoid things that cause poor circulation. Poor circulation is often caused by conditions like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes. Those who have a health condition that hinders blood circulation are more at risk of fungal skin infections. [2] 

a three-dimensional model of the veins and arteries of the human body

Hormonal Changes

Hormonal changes can affect the immune system’s efficacy and increase your risk for all types of fungal infections. However, hormonal changes in the body are most strongly associated with yeast infections. Candida is the fungus that causes yeast infections, and high levels of estrogen can encourage Candida growth. Women who are pregnant, on hormonal contraception, or are around their period can experience increases in estrogen if their natural balance of progesterone and estrogen is thrown off. Postmenopausal women are more at risk for yeast infections due to the reduced acidity in the vagina. [3]

Immune System Health 

As mentioned above, a compromised immune system can make you more vulnerable to fungal infections. Poor vascular health is one factor that can weaken the immune system, but other things like smoking, stress, and immunodeficiency disorders can also impair your immune system. Conditions like AIDS, leukemia, hepatitis, and myeloma can negatively impact the immune system. Chemotherapy, radiation, burns on the skin, and malnutrition can weaken your body’s defense. Some types of immunodeficiency disorders are present from birth, while secondary types are acquired. [4] Talk to your doctor about ways to improve your immune system.

handwashing

Skin Injuries

Fungi can enter the body through burns, cuts, scrapes, and wounds. Because many types of fungi naturally live on your skin, they can easily enter an open wound and cause an infection. If you are just out of surgery, you may be at risk for a fungal infection in the area where the surgery took place. This is referred to as a surgical site infection and may require medical treatment. It is always a good idea to properly clean the affected area any time there is an open wound to avoid life-threatening complications. [5]

Medications and Good Bacteria

Many types of good bacteria live inside your body. They are good because they help fight off infections, but some medications can destroy these good bacteria and reduce the body’s ability to defend against fungal infections. Some antibiotics can kill good bacteria and allow fungi to grow. Corticosteroids and cancer treatments like radiation and chemotherapy can also increase fungal infection risk. [1]

It may be difficult to completely avoid fungal infections, but there are some ways you can lower your risk. Good hygiene is critical. Simple steps like washing your hands often, avoiding sharing personal care products, wearing shoes in locker rooms, and keeping your skin clean and dry can go a long way in preventing fungal infection. You should still see a doctor if you have a fungal infection, even though they aren’t often serious.

Fungal infections can take a long time to go away on their own, subjecting you to many months of uncomfortable symptoms before there is relief. Your doctor can prescribe antifungal drugs like Diflucan (fluconazole)Lotriderm (clotrimazole)Spectazole (econazole), and Vermox (mebendazole) to help with your recovery and help prevent future infections.

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.