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What is Antifungal Ointment?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Antifungal ointment is a topical medication designed to treat fungal infections. Basic antifungals are often available at drug stores to treat infections caused by common fungi like those in the genus Trichophyton, which cause athlete's foot. For more rare or persistent conditions, it may be necessary to see a dermatologist for evaluation and treatment. The dermatologist can take a sample to determine which fungus is causing the infection and prescribe an appropriate medication.

Fungal infections can happen in people of all ages. People may be occupationally exposed to fungus, pick fungus up from someone at a gym or other shared environment, or have compromised immune systems which make them vulnerable to spores in the air. Fungi tend to like warm, moist environments, and infections are common in the armpits, groin, and between the toes for this reason.

Someone with a fungal infection can develop different symptoms, depending on the organism responsible. Most people feel itchy and may become sore. The skin can crack and bleed, become discolored, or scurf off. Fungal infections may also cause rashes as the skin reacts to the fungus, and colorful discharges can develop when the immune system tries to fight back.

Applying an antifungal ointment will kill the fungus. This allows the skin to heal, expelling the dead fungus and repairing any cracks and pits which may have developed during the course of the infection. The ointment may be blended with compounds which reduce inflammation so that the skin will feel less irritated. Some ointments also include moisturizers to soothe cracked and dry skin.

A generic antifungal ointment is formulated to address common types of fungi, such as those responsible for causing athlete's foot and jock itch. Not all fungi will respond universally, however. For rare fungal infections, a specially formulated ointment may be necessary to kill the fungi. If an infection does not respond to an antifungal ointment, a dermatologist should be consulted, and the packaging for the ointment should be brought in so that the doctor knows what did not work during the first round of treatment.

Certain ointments can lead to skin irritation. If a patient notices that the skin appears red or sore after ointment is applied, it may be necessary to try a different formulation to kill the fungus without hurting the skin. All medications should be kept out of reach of children and pets, and certain medications may be specifically dangerous for non-human animals. Households with pets should ask if a particular antifungal ointment poses a risk to animals in the house.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By turquoise — On Aug 21, 2013

Has anyone experienced hair growth from anti-fungal cream? My sister was treated with anti-fungal cream for a skin yeast infection and she says that she has more skin on that area now. Is this really possible?

I've had to use anti-fungal cream in the past too, for ringworm. But I didn't experience any side effects from it.

By burcinc — On Aug 20, 2013

@simrin-- I think fungi have developed resistance to some of the OTC treatments. The more a medication is used for a fungal infection, the faster the fungi develop resistance.

You should see your doctor for a prescription ointment. That way, you can get a confirmation on the cause of the rash and your doctor will give you something that works specifically for that type of fungi.

By SteamLouis — On Aug 20, 2013

I've been using an OTC anti-fungal ointment for the past one week for my jock itch and it hasn't done anything.

I'm not sure if I should try a different OTC brand or if I should see a doctor.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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