Most fungal infections are diagnosed after the fungi are identified in the patient's blood or tissue. The healthcare provider will take a small sample of tissue from the affected area. For instance, if the patient's symptoms involve the respiratory tract, a healthcare provider may swab the back of the patient's throat. The sample is then analyzed under a microscope for the presence of fungi. If fungus is present, a positive diagnosis is made.
signs and symptoms
General: Symptoms vary depending on the type and severity of the infection, as well as the parts of the body that are infected. Patients should visit their healthcare professionals if any of these symptoms develop.
Nail beds: Patients who have fungal nail infections (onychomycosis) may develop thick, brittle, or crumbly fingernails or toenails, which may be painful. The nails may become distorted in shape, flat, or dull. The nails may be yellow, green, brown, or black in color, and they may emit a foul odor. In some cases, infected nails may separate from the nail bed, causing a condition called onycholysis.
Scalp: Patients with fungal infections of the scalp (e.g. tinea capitis) typically develop a circle-shaped rash on the skin that is swollen. The skin may be scaly and itchy. There may be small black dots on the scalp. Patients may lose small patches of hair. However, the hair will grow back once treatment is started.
Skin: Symptoms of tinea versicolor, which is the most common type of fungal skin infection, typically include patches of discolored skin that grow slowly and prevent the skin from tanning. As a result, symptoms are usually most apparent after the skin is exposed to the sun. The patches of scaly skin may be various colors, such as white, pink, tan, or dark brown. The affected skin may also be itchy. The back, chest, neck, and upper arms are most likely to be affected. Symptoms may worsen during hot and humid weather.
Mouth: Symptoms of oral thrush may develop suddenly. Oral thrush typically causes creamy white lesions on the tongue, inner cheek, and sometimes, the gums, tonsils, and roof of the mouth. These lesions are often painful in patients with weakened immune systems, and they may bleed slightly when they are rubbed.
Esophagus: Severe cases of oral thrush may spread into the esophagus. This is most likely to occur if oral thrush is left untreated or if the patient is extremely immunocompromised. Common symptoms of esophageal candidiasis include pain or difficulty swallowing and the sensation of food sticking to the throat. The pain may be so severe that it is difficult to eat. A fever may indicate that the infection has spread beyond the esophagus.
Lungs: Symptoms of histoplasmosis typically develop about 17 days after the fungal spores were inhaled. Common symptoms include fever, headache, dry cough, chills, chest pain, weight loss, and sweats.
Vagina: Common symptoms of vulvovaginal candidiasis (yeast infection) include itching, watery or curd-like vaginal discharge that is white in color, vaginal erythema (reddening of the skin), pain during sexual intercourse (dyspareunia), painful urination, swollen labia and vulva, and vaginal lesions. Symptoms generally worsen during menstruation because the hormonal changes provide a better environment for fungal growth.
Feet: Fungal infections of the feet, such as athlete's foot, may cause burning or itching anywhere on the feet. Symptoms are usually most noticeable in between the toes. Patients may also develop itchy blisters, cracked or peeling skin, dry skin, or toenails that are thick, crumbly, discolored, or pulling away from the nail bed.
Systemic: When a fungal infection enters the bloodstream and affects multiple body tissues and organs, the condition is often life threatening. Histoplasmosis may spread to virtually any part of the body, including the liver, bone marrow, eyes, skin, adrenal glands, and/or intestinal tract. When this happens, the condition is called disseminated histoplasmosis. Symptoms vary depending on which organs are infected. It may lead to severe and fatal complications, including pneumonia, pericarditis, meningitis, and/or adrenal insufficiency.
If left untreated, a severe candidiasis infection may spread into the bloodstream and affect other organs, including the intestines, kidneys, or heart. This condition is called candidemia. Fever and low blood pressure often occur in patients with candidemia. Additional symptoms depend on which body parts are affected. For instance, if the heart becomes infected, it may cause a heart murmur or enlargement of the spleen.