A mycosis is an infection of living tissue with a fungus. The fungal infection can be yeast or mold. These can either affect the skin, fingernails and toenails or various organs via the bloodstream. Mycoses can be either harmless and easily treatable or, in the worst case, life-threatening, depending on which fungus affects which area of the body.
What is mycosis?
Doctors understand mycosis to be living tissue that is infected by a fungus. The host (which can be human, animal or plant) becomes infected with spores of the respective fungal species. See sciencedict for Introduction to Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis.
These settle in the body and multiply, causing damage to the affected tissue or even to the entire organism. Experts distinguish superficial and systemic mycoses. The former denote infections of the skin, mucous membranes or nails.
The latter is an infestation of the bloodstream and as a result of various organs. While superficial mycoses can usually be treated with medication without any problems, systemic mycoses are potentially fatal and require immediate medical therapy.
The causes of mycosis lie in infection with a fungus. In most cases, spores of the respective fungal species penetrate the tissues of the host.
The spores are viable parts of the fungus that spread through the host. A mycosis in the actual sense is only spoken of when this spread has taken place and damage to the tissue and corresponding symptoms result. In some cases, the host’s organism manages to defend itself against the spread of the fungi; this is called an inapparent infection.
Infection with a fungus can take place in a number of ways. Among other things, infection from person to person is possible (this is particularly the case with skin and mucosal mycoses).
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
A systemic mycosis can take a severe course and ultimately lead to the death of the patient. The systemic form initially causes an increasing fever, which can be associated with a feeling of illness and chills, sweating and cardiovascular disorders. Symptoms such as coughing and shortness of breath can accompany this.
The main symptom, however, is the skin changes. The affected person first notices an infestation of the skin and nails, occasionally the intimate area and face are also involved. The fungus spreads quickly and leads to itching, reddening of the skin and pain as it progresses . After a few days, the skin begins to flake, which usually makes the itching even worse. Extensive skin lichens are also typical.
These can become inflamed and in some cases cause bleeding or eczema. If the course is severe, scars remain, which represent a psychological burden for the patient, as they mainly appear on visible areas such as arms, legs and hands. Eventually, the disease leads to respiratory and circulatory failure, from which the patient eventually dies. Early treatment prevents the fungus from spreading. The skin changes subside after a few days or weeks without any long-term effects or complications to be expected.
Diagnosis & History
In most cases, mycosis is diagnosed by the doctor treating you using a sample taken from the affected tissue. The pathogen is then cultivated (reared) from this sample in order to clearly identify it.
Since this method can be quite lengthy under certain circumstances, treatment of the infection is often started at the same time. The doctor decides which therapy is used based on his experience. In addition, a microscopic examination of an affected tissue sample can be carried out to be on the safe side.
In principle, systemic mycoses carry the risk of leading to the death of the host by infecting certain organs. Medical treatment is therefore urgently needed.
In the worst case, a mycosis can even lead to the death of the patient. However, this usually only occurs if the disease is not treated or if treatment is initiated very late. In most cases, those affected suffer from fungal diseases that can occur in different parts of the body. The nails and skin are particularly affected.
It is not uncommon for severe itching and scaly skin to occur. Those affected feel uncomfortable with the complaint and are often ashamed of the symptoms. This can lead to depression or other psychological problems and inferiority complexes. As a rule, the quality of life of the patient is significantly restricted and reduced by the mycosis.
The treatment of this disease can be done with the help of medication and usually leads to quick success. There are no special complications if the mycosis has not affected the internal organs. The patient’s life expectancy is also not reduced if the treatment is successful. Proper hygiene can help prevent fungal diseases. Even after successful treatment, the affected person can usually fall ill again.
When should you go to the doctor?
If fever, chills, cardiovascular disorders and other signs of systemic mycosis are noticed, medical advice is required. Infectious disease is a serious condition that can be fatal if left untreated. Therefore, a doctor should be consulted at the latest when the characteristic skin changes appear. An infestation of the skin, nails, intimate area and face must be examined and treated by a dermatologist. Extensive skin lichen indicates an advanced systemic mycosis – a doctor must be consulted immediately.
Regular visits to the doctor are indicated during treatment so that any medication can be regularly adjusted to the rapidly changing symptoms and conditions. If severe itching and other complications occur, the doctor must also be informed. In addition to treating the physical symptoms, the patient should seek therapeutic treatment to counteract any psychological symptoms. A systemic mycosis is treated by the family doctor, the dermatologist and, if necessary, by doctors for internal diseases.
Treatment & Therapy
If the attending physician has diagnosed a mycosis, he will initiate an appropriate therapy based on the samples taken and his experience.
The exact type of treatment depends on which area of the body is affected and which fungus it is. If the host’s skin is affected, antifungal (antifungal) drugs may be prescribed in ointment form to be applied to the affected area. If the mucous membranes are affected, ointments, lozenges or suppositories are also used (depending on which mucous membrane is affected).
Systemic mycoses are also treated with antifungal drugs; however, in most cases these are administered intravenously so that they can act directly in the host’s bloodstream. Here, possible side effects must be weighed against the benefit of a treatment so that the administration of the drug does not result in more serious damage. In the case of particularly severe or stubborn mycoses, a combination of local and systemic drug treatment is also possible.
Outlook & Forecast
If a mycosis is recognized and treated early, the prognosis is relatively good. Although the patients have to be treated, they can lead a symptom-free life if the therapy is successful. The therapy has no long-term consequences for the body and psyche, but it can cause short-term symptoms that can sometimes be a significant burden. Only treatment with very strong drugs can cause permanent organ damage and other physical complaints that permanently reduce the quality of life and possibly also life expectancy.
The prognosis is also poor when the mycosis is already well advanced. Aggressive therapy, which is associated with various side effects, is often the last treatment option. The prognosis is accordingly negative. In contrast, the prognosis for vaginal mycosis, which becomes a chronic disease in five to eight percent of cases, is relatively positive.
The constant administration of medication can alleviate the symptoms and preserve the quality of life. Therapeutic treatment using antimycotics is carried out gently using creams or ointments. Side effects usually do not occur. In the case of systemic mycoses, intravenous treatment is required, which sometimes causes side effects such as inflammation.
In many cases, a mycosis cannot be prevented directly, as it often occurs indirectly via human dander. However, the risk of certain fungal infections, for example of the genitals, can be significantly reduced by not changing partners frequently. If there is a suspicion of a mycosis, a doctor should be consulted in any case. This prevents the infection from spreading and infecting other people in the area.
Follow-up care for mycosis depends on the type and location of the disease. In the case of small-area and superficial mycoses, follow-up measures are usually not necessary. This applies in particular to athlete’s foot and skin fungi that have not spread far and are treated quickly. With the right therapy, it can be assumed that the fungal infection has been eliminated.
Exceptions are patients who are more susceptible to mycoses due to skin diseases or an immune deficiency. As a precaution, they can also go to a follow-up examination after therapy and have any residues of the fungus tracked down. Superficial mycoses are often formed in weakened people and damaged skin.
It should therefore be part of the aftercare that the (repeatedly) affected skin areas are kept healthy. In addition, attention should be paid to dryness and a good supply of nutrients. This keeps the skin healthy and the spores are less likely to lodge due to the dryness. This applies in particular to the spaces between the toes and the genital region.
In the case of systemic mycoses, however, follow-up examinations are essential. Any residues and recurrent infections must be detected quickly through thorough investigations. Prophylactic therapy with antimycotics beyond the period of treatment is conceivable.
You can do that yourself
The treatment of a mycosis is usually lengthy and associated with various accompanying symptoms. Those affected can support the healing of the fungal infection by ensuring strict personal hygiene and following the doctor’s instructions.
In consultation with the doctor, various homeopathic remedies can be used. For example, ointments or suppositories with the active ingredients arnica or belladonna have proven effective. Naturopathy also offers various remedies with marigold ointment and essential oils that relieve the rash. Which measures can be applied in detail should be decided together with the responsible doctor.
It is generally helpful to strengthen the immune system. This is achieved through moderate exercise and sufficient sleep. If additional stress is avoided, the mycosis often heals without complications. However, if further symptoms appear, a specialist clinic must be consulted. If the pain increases, professional pain therapy is advisable. Since the fungal infection often causes mental suffering, you can talk to a therapist at the same time. Patients should contact the doctor who can establish appropriate contacts.
In case of systemic mycosis, hospital treatment is required. Those affected should take appropriate precautionary measures and inform the responsible doctor of any unusual symptoms.