Types, uses, when to seek help

There are many types of antifungal medications, some of which can be obtained over the counter and others that doctors prescribe. Anyone with a weakened immune system who thinks they have a fungal infection should contact a doctor immediately.

Molds, yeasts, and fungi are all types of fungi. Of millions of different species of fungi, only a few hundred are responsible for making people sick.

Fungi can cause a variety of conditions. Most of them affect the nails or the skin, causing rashes or other skin conditions, but some can cause more serious infections. The fungi can cause meningitis, blood infections, and lung infections.

This article will explore the different types of fungal infections, when to see a doctor, and what antifungal drugs are available to treat fungal infections.

Antifungal drugs are the drugs that people use to treat fungal infections. People can take antifungal medications by mouth, apply them topically, or give them intravenously through an intravenous infusion.

Antifungal drugs usually work either by killing the fungal cells or by preventing them from growing and multiplying.

The parts of the cell targeted by antifungal drugs include the fungal cell membrane and the fungal cell wall. These are two protective parts of the cell that can cause cell leakage and death when damaged.

The human body lacks these structures, which means that antifungal drugs can target fungi without damaging the cells in the body.

Antifungal drugs come in many forms depending on many factors. Specific drugs come in different forms. The type of infection a person has will have an impact on how they receive the medication.

There are four main types of antifungal drugs.

These are:

  • polyenes
  • azoles
  • allylamines
  • echinocandins


These work by changing the wall of fungal cells to be more porous, making them more likely to burst.

Here are some examples of polyenes and the fungal conditions they treat:

  • Nystatin: A topical and oral antifungal that treats candida infections involving the mouth or skin.
  • Amphotericin B: Treats a wide variety of fungal conditions including invasive aspergillosis, blastomycosis, candidiasis, coccidioidomycosis, cryptococcal meningitis, cryptococcosis, histoplasmosis, mucormycosis, sporotrichosis and others.


Within the category of azole antifungal drugs, there are two subcategories: imidazoles and triazoles.

Here are some examples of imidazoles and the fungal conditions they treat:

  • Clotrimazole: Skin, oral and vaginal candida infections.
  • Ketoconazole: Systemic fungal infections due to candida, blastomycosis, coccidioidomycosis, histoplasmosis, chromomycosis and paracoccidioidomycosis.
  • Miconazole: Vaginal, skin and nail infections.

Here are some examples of triazoles and the fungal conditions they treat:

  • Fluconazole: Used for the treatment of fungal infections due to candida and cryptococcus.
  • Isavuconazole: Treatment of invasive aspergillosis and mucormycosis infections.
  • Itraconazole: Blastomycosis, aspergillosis, histoplasmosis, candidiasis and various superficial mycoses.
  • Posaconazole: Treats invasive fungal infections caused by aspergillosis and candida.
  • Voriconazole: Aspergillosis and candida.


Allylamines work by inhibiting an enzyme that the cell membrane needs to function properly. Without this membrane, the cell may not be able to function.

An example of allylamine is terbinafine, which treats fungal infections of the skin.


These interfere with an enzyme involved in the creation of the fungal cell wall.

Here are some examples of echinocandins and the fungal conditions they treat:

  • Anidulafungin: Treats esophageal candidiasis and invasive candidiasis.
  • Caspofungin: Aspergillosis, esophageal candidiasis and invasive candidiasis.
  • Micafungin: Esophageal candidiasis and invasive candidiasis.

the most common types fungal infection are:

  • Ringworm: People also know ringworm as ringworm or dermatophytosis. This is a common skin infection caused by one of the 40 different species of mushrooms. It can occur on the scalp, feet, or anywhere else on the skin.
  • Oral thrush: Caused by a yeast called Candida, this infection occurs when something affects the environment inside the mouth, throat, or esophagus.
  • Vaginal yeast infection: The yeast that usually lives in the body and on the skin causes this infection. If anything disturbs the environment inside the vagina, the yeast can multiply and cause an infection.
  • Onychomycosis: Fungal nail infections can occur on the hands, but most commonly on the toenails. Fungi cause these infections when they enter the nail through small cracks in the nail or the skin around it.
  • Coccidioidomycosis: A fungus that lives in the soil of the southwestern United States causes coccidioidomycosis, also known as valley fever.

Fungi can cause more serious infections, including:

  • aspergillosis
  • blastomycosis
  • cryptococcus gattii infection
  • fungal meningitis
  • fungal pneumonia
  • histoplasmosis
  • mucormycosis
  • paracoccidioidomycosis
  • talaromycosis

These are much rarer, but can be much more serious.

  • Ringworm: This present with a ring-shaped rash and itchy, red, scaly, cracked skin. Depending on its location, ringworm can cause hair loss in a person.
  • Oral thrush: White spots may cover the inside of the mouth and throat, including on the tongue. There may also be some redness present. A person may experience pain when swallowing or eating.
  • Jock itch: People with itchy muscles may notice red, scaly, itchy spots, usually on the inner sides of the skin folds on their thighs.
  • Athlete’s foot: A person with athlete’s foot may notice that their skin is red, swollen, itchy, and sometimes peeling between their toes.
  • Vaginal yeast infection: Symptoms May include abnormal vaginal discharge, vaginal itching, stiffness, pain during penetrating sex and pain during urination.
  • Onychomycosis: Hands or feet with fungal infections often have thick, yellow, brown, white or otherwise discolored nails. They can also be brittle or cracked.
  • Coccidioidomycosis: Valley fever causes a person to fatigue, headache, shortness of breath, night sweats, and muscle pain. They may also cough and notice a rash.

A person may be able to solve a case of ringworm by using over-the-counter creams, lotions, or powders. Ringworm on the scalp usually requires treatment with prescription antifungal drugs.

Most antifungal drugs can only be obtained with a prescription, so people should see a doctor if they think they may have a fungal infection.

People should see a doctor as soon as possible if they think they have symptoms of a fungal infection and have a weakened immune system.

This includes people who:

  • are living with HIV or AIDS
  • are currently hospitalized
  • have had an organ transplant and are taking anti-rejection medications
  • are undergoing cancer treatment
  • are taking medicines with side effects that may weaken a person’s immune system, such as corticosteroids and tumor necrosis factor inhibitors

It is important to treat fungal infections quickly. Some fungal infections can lead to long-term complications, which is especially dangerous in people with weakened immune systems.

Antifungal drugs can treat fungal infections. There are a lot of different medicines because there are many different fungi that can cause infections.

Most of the time, healthcare professionals can easily treat fungal infections, but sometimes they can be more serious.

People with weakened immune systems should see a doctor if they suspect a fungal infection. Anyone with a fungal infection should talk to their doctor if it does not resolve with over-the-counter treatments.

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