Have you got a fungal infection? Then you are in need of an antifungal agent! An antifungal agent is a pharmaceutical product that is used to treat fungal infections. It is difficult to avoid fungus exposure because fungi are all around us. Fungi can affect the body in different ways. Fungi can poison the body if poisonous fungi are consumed. Fungi can also be inhaled and cause allergies. The most common way that fungi affect the body is through infections. The infections can have an internal effect, or a more superficial (on the skin) effect. Fungal infections can target a specific part of the body (local effect) or target the body as a whole (systemic effect). Systemic infections are more severe and difficult to control compared to local infections.
Common superficial fungal infections include ringworms, athlete’s foot, nail infections, and oral and vaginal thrush. Common fungal infections within the body include Aspergillosis (commonly affects the lungs) and fungal meningitis. There are ways in which certain common fungal infections can be avoided. For example, the chances of getting athlete’s foot can be reduced by keeping your feet clean, cool and dry, wearing shoes that fit and are not too tight, not walking barefoot (especially in bathrooms and public areas) and also keeping your toenails short and clean. Vaginal thrush can be prevented by wearing cotton underwear only and avoiding scented feminine hygiene products and soaps. Ringworms are contagious and spread through contact with another person, therefore if someone has a ringworm it is advisable to not come into contact with the ringworm.
|Figure 1: Athlete’s Foot|
|Figure 2: A Ringworm|
Antifungal agents come in different forms and brand names- most of them work by damaging the cell wall of the fungi. Antifungal creams, liquids and sprays are used to treat topical infections. There is also antifungal shampoo that can be used to treat ringworms on the scalp. Antifungal pessaries are designed to be put into the vagina. Oral antifungal agents include oral gels, liquids and tablets (can have a local or systemic effect). Antifungal injections are usually used if there is a serious fungal infection within the body.
Topical antifungal agents usually carry the least side-effects, but those that are absorbed into the body (e.g. antifungal injections) have more serious side-effects. Antifungal agents can have toxic effects on the body, therefore it is important that they are taken correctly.
There are many antifungal treatments that can be bought over-the-counter from local pharmacies. There are also antifungal treatments that require a prescription- these are generally for the more serious fungal infections. The length of time that the antifungal agent will be used for depends on the severity of the infection. For example, topical creams can be used for a few days for vaginal thrush before the infection goes away, whereas treatment for ringworms on the scalp may need to be taken for a couple of weeks.
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