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Self-medicate with caution: Unprescribed drugs causing chronic fungal infections

11:12 PM Oct 22, 2021 | Swapnil Mishra

Doctors have said that one in every five patients walking into clinics is suffering from a fungal infection. Nearly 50 per cent of such patients are becoming resistant to treatment despite being treated for over six months.

Primary reasons observed for the increase in incidence of chronic resistant fungal infections are non-compliance to medication, over or under-dosing, self-medication and rampant adoption of ‘one-stop-solution’ medications. Doctors have said the incidence of skin disorders, especially in sun allergy cases, have doubled, with a 25-35 per cent rise in comparison to last year in the same period.

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People are complaining about their necks and backs getting dirty due to pollution, but worse, as the sun in October is scorching and stays longer in the sky, more people are complaining of skin infections.

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A dermatologist from a civic-run hospital said, “With increasing humidity, people are complaining of more perspiration, which seems to be causing infections. We are seeing approximately 200-300 such cases every day and people above the age of 40 seem to be more vulnerable to these skin infections and other heat-related problems.”

Nearly 1,000 patients with similar complaints are visiting KEM, JJ, BYL Nair and Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General (Sion) hospitals for treatment.

While the city’s humidity and construction activity makes it easier for fungi to thrive and spread, doctors say the use of over-the-counter creams and ointments that often contain steroids have contributed to a spurt as well as resistance to them.

Dr Rahul Tambe, senior consultant (internal medicine) at Nanavati Max Super Speciality Hospital, Vile Parle, said major causes of widespread fungal infections are humidity, hygiene and environmental factors; most importantly, irresponsible and unprescribed use of antifungal medication.

Dr Tambe has been seeing six to eight patients a month complaining about resistant fungal infections in blood or urine. Dermatologists, on the other hand, are seeing five to six such patients on a daily basis. Nearly 20-25 per cent of patients in ICUs are diagnosed with such invasive infections.

Dr Tambe said, “Abuse of antifungal medication through unprescribed over-the-counter sale is one major cause of the fungus developing resistance against the medication. Any person on unprescribed antifungal medication stops taking medication after initial relief and doesn't complete the course is bound to develop resistance against that very medication.”

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