When people think of mold, they generally think of a slimy, dirty bathtub or toilet. However, there are several molds that live on and in our bodies with no ill effect. Occasionally, certain types of mold or people with other conditions that make them more prone to infection can suffer from a mold infection of several different parts of the body.
The most well-known type of mold infection on the skin is called ringworm. Despite what the name implies, ringworm infections are not caused by worms but rather are caused by the fungal mold, tinea. According to the National Institutes of Health, tinea infections are most common on the feet, genitals or scalp but can occur anywhere on the body. A tinea infection usually results in a pink or red ring-shaped rash. On areas where hair normally grows, such as the scalp, it can result in bald patches.
A mold infection of the eye is called fungal keratitis. According to the National Institutes of Health, it is an infection of the cornea (which is the clear part of the front of the eye) and is most common in people with immune system problems. Symptoms include excessively watery eyes, a pink or reddish appearance to the white of the eye, and itchiness. Left untreated, fungal keratitis can lead to vision loss or even blindness.
Mold infections in the lungs are rare but quite serious. According to the National Institutes of Health, people with a weakened immune system (such as from chemotherapy or an HIV infection) are most likely to develop this type of infection. It is called aspergillosis or invasive pulmonary aspergillosis. Symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath and fever. Left untreated, this infection can spread to other organs such as the liver or the kidneys.
Allergies to mold are much more common than mold infections. Allergic reactions can vary but can include many of the same symptoms as those caused by a mold infection. Respiratory symptoms are very common in people with mold allergies, and can include coughing, sneezing or a runny nose. An allergic reaction occurs when a person is exposed to mold spores. The symptoms will subside when a person removes himself from the area that contains the mold.
Treatments for mold infections will vary depending upon the type of mold that caused the infection. In cases of skin infections, a topical antifungal cream is the most common treatment. For mold infections of the eye, antifungal eye drops are often used. In either case, and in the event of a mold infection in the lungs, oral antifungal medications can be prescribed.