What is “White Spot”?
"White spot" or "panau" is a superficial fungal infection of the skin. The medical term is Pityriasis versicolor or Tinea versicolor. It usually affects adults and causes an itchy, scaly rash that appears as white, pink or brown patches on the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders and limbs. The condition is often aggravated by excessive sweating.
What is Ringworm?
Ringworm is a common term for superficial fungal infection of the skin which appears as scaly, red, rounded patches with a tendency to form rings. It is known as tinea corporis when it affects the body, and tinea cruris when it affects the groin. Tinea capitis, or ringworm of the scalp, affects mainly children and can cause hair loss. However, this condition is relatively uncommon in Singapore. Healing may result in pigmentation of the skin.
What is Athlete’s Foot?
This is known as tinea pedis and is one of the most common fungal infections of the skin. The skin on the soles and toewebs becomes very scaly and peels. It is itchy and occasionally small blisters may appear. The infection can also affect the toenails.
Fig 3. Tinea pedis. This is also known as ‘athlete’s foot’. It causes a rash on the soles and toe webs.
Fig 4. Tinea pedis. Occasionally, fungal infections affecting the soles may cause small blisters to occur. Some of the blisters contain pus. This condition usually requires oral antifungal medications.
What is Moniliasis / Candidiasis?
This is a yeast infection that often affects moist areas like the skin folds, armpits and groins. It also occurs commonly on the genitalia and can cause a vaginal discharge in women. It is more common in people with diabetes mellitus, and appears as itchy red spots or patches.
How to prevent superficial fungal infections
- Fungi grow where the skin is warm and sweaty. Keep the space between your toes, the skin folds in the groin area and the armpits dry to prevent such fungal infection. The use of powder may help.
- Do not walk around bare-footed in areas where the floor is wet – common showers, gyms, public toilets, and swimming pools, as fungi can be present. Wear slippers.
- Avoid sharing personal napkins, towels, combs and hair brushes as they may be infected. Make sure you use your own personal items because these fungal infections are easily transferable.
- Nylon socks and covered shoes make your feet sweat. Wear cotton socks to absorb the sweat, or open-toe sandals if your feet sweat profusely. Always change your socks daily.
- Avoid wearing damp shoes. Try to alternate between two pairs of shoes.
How to treat superficial fungal infections:
- Apply anti-fungal cream on the affected areas two to three times a day for four weeks.
- Do not stop using the medication even when the rash has cleared. Continue using it for at least seven days after the infection appears to be cleared. In the case of white spots, the white colour remains even after the infection has been successfully treated. However, this will gradually improve over time as the skin recovers its normal colour.
- Oral anti-fungal medications are needed for fungal infections affecting large areas. Your doctor may prescribe them.
- For prevention of white spots, use an antifungal shampoo once a month; on your scalp and body, leave it on for 10 minutes before washing it off. In the event of an infection, use this daily for 7 to 14 days consecutively.
- Seek medical attention if the condition does not improve. Do not attempt to further self-medicate.
- Fungal nail infection can be treated but often requires prolonged treatment. It is important to realise that eradication of the fungi does not guarantee that the nails return to a normal appearance.
DEDICATED TO EXCELLENCE IN DERMATOLOGY
By National Skin Centre (Singapore)
Copyright (C) 1995 - National Skin Centre (Singapore)