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Tinea corporis is a type of ringworm, often called body ringworm. It can appear almost anywhere on the body and is a fungal infection. Spread of infection is usually limited to the upper layers of skin, and there are a few other types of ringworm that may occur in certain locations. Tinea capitas is sometimes called scalp ringworm and usually occurs directly on the scalp where it may cause hair loss. Other related fungal infections include those that cause jock itch and athlete’s foot.
Ringworm tends to begin as a small round ring that can itch. People with extensive tinea corporis may have multiple rings. These do not truly have worms in them. They are an infection caused by fungi called dermatophytes which thrive on skin.
In order to get tinea corporis, people need exposure to dermatophytes and this can occur in a number of ways. Direct contact with someone who has an active case of ringworm may result in infection. People can come into contact with dermatophytes on things like towels or clothing that have been used by someone with an infection. Alternately, some people get ringworm from their pets; dogs, cats, horses, chinchillas and the like can have these infections too. Another potential source of tinea corporis infection is through soil where dermatophytes may live.
If ringworm is suspected, doctors may do some tests, such as scraping the rash areas to sample them for presence of fungus. Some other rashes may mimic tinea corporis and are not of fungal origin. Thus doctors usually order a culture of a small scraping of the skin scraping to confirm a rash is ringworm.
Once ringworm is diagnosed, people will need to use topical and possibly oral anti-fungal medications. One small patch of ringworm may be easily treated with a topical anti-fungal, but if the condition has spread significantly, it may be necessary to take an oral anti-fungal medication. It’s also important to try to keep the infected area clean and dry, as this may help accelerate healing.
It’s a judgment call for people whether they should see a doctor if they think they have ringworm. It can be a good idea to make certain, but the cause may also be obvious. If several other people in the family have ringworm or just recovered from it, it might be reasonable to assume cause of a circular rash.
Similarly, if a person has been caring for pets that have it, it might be relatively safe to make the assumption that pet to person transmission occurred. When there’s no clear evidence of recent exposure, it may be better to confirm diagnosis with a doctor. Alternately if a person decides to self-treat with over the counter anti-fungal medications, they should alert a doctor if the rash doesn’t improve in two weeks.
There’s no doubt that tinea corporis is contagious. People should not share blankets, towels, or clothing with someone who has an active infection. Obviously, when this condition occurs in kids, which is most common, parents may still need to provide care for kids that might involve touching the rash, such as putting anti-fungal ointment on it. It’s important to thoroughly wash hands immediately after touching an area of infection and also to encourage kids not to touch the rash area. Clearly any clothing or linens used by someone with an active infection should be immediately washed.