According to the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fungal infections are very common and can affect anyone, including people who may appear to be healthy. They mostly affect different parts of the body, especially the hair, nails and skin. Even though fungal infections are not life-threatening, they may cause illnesses, especially in people with weakened immune system. These infections are treated with antifungal medicine, which can be bought over the counter from the nearby pharmacy, drugstore, or online pharmacy, with or without a prescription.
Some of the common fungal infections include:
There are other less common but severe fungal infections such as aspergillosis, which affects the lungs and fungal meningitis that affects the brain. These infections are likely to affect people with weak immune systems, especially those under immunity-suppressing medications.
Antifungals come in different forms and are used based on the nature of the infections. The most common types include topical, oral, intravenous, and intravaginal.
1. Topical antifungals
These medicines are used to treat skin, nails and scalp fungal infections. They come in forms of creams, sprays, lotions, shampoos, and other liquids. There are different brand names, such as Clotrimazole, Miconazole, Econazole, among others. Some of these creams are formulated together with other creams for enhanced effect when used such as steroid cream to treat rashes. Shampoos are used to treat fungal infections on the scalp and some skin conditions.
2. Oral Antifungals
There are different types of oral antifungals, such as liquids, gels and tablets. They are consumed by mouth and include Terbinafine, which is used to treat tinea type fungal infections, Fluconazole that is effective in the treatment of vaginal thrush in place of the cream, among others.
An intravenous antifungal injection is in most cases reserved for severe infections in the body. They include Flucytosine, Amphotericin, Voriconazole, Caspofungin, and Anidulafungin. The choice of the treatment is entirely pegged on the infection-causing fungus that is determined after requisite diagnosis of the condition by a specialist.
4. Intravaginal antifungal pessaries
As the name suggests, these antifungals are placed into the vagina to treat infections such as vaginal thrush. Common types of pessaries are Clotrimazole, Fenticonazole, Miconazole, and Econazole. They mostly come in form of small tablets.
There are currently many brand names of antifungals. In as much as they may have the same active ingredients, their effectiveness may vary depending on how they are generally formulated. Some of the common brands are:
Antibiotics and antifungals differ. While antibiotics are designed to kill bacteria, they don't kill fungi. The mechanism of antifungals is straight-forward: they kill fungal cells or prevent them from reproducing or growing in the body. In fact, you are more prone to a fungal infection when taking antibiotics. For example, most women have developed vaginal thrush while taking antibiotics because they targets bacteria, some that might be harmless in different parts of the body such as the vagina and therefore when they are eliminated by a dose of antibiotics, the fungi thrive.
In as much as most antifungals are easily available over the counter without a prescription, it is always advisable to talk to a general practitioner about your specific condition. As mentioned earlier, there are many types of fungal infections. The effectiveness of any course of treatment is therefore pegged on specific medicine created for that purpose.
You need to disclose any known allergies or conditions, find out whether the drugs can cause side effects, information about possible drug interactions and if they can harm the unborn child (if pregnant) or breastfeeding child.
Even though most antifungals are likely to cause some side effects, they are normally short-lived and mild. Common adverse effects included redness of the skin, itching/burning sensation, diarrhea, a rash, feeling sickly, among others. Though rare, allergic reactions are also possible, and may include the swelling of the face, neck or tongue and breathing difficulties. Other severe side effects include:
It is advisable that you discontinue treatment in case of the above severe reactions and contact your doctor immediately for assessment. Your doctor can always recommend alternative treatment for the condition.
Different antifungals may interact differently with other drugs. You are therefore encouraged to disclose to the doctor all other medications you might be taking to treat different conditions for proper guidance.