What is Tinea?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2019
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Tinea is a type of fungal infection commonly known as ringworm. There are several classifications, characterized by the specific fungus involved and the part of the body affected. A person can experience a general case of ringworm on the body or an isolated infection of the scalp, feet, nails, or groin region. Most cases cause itching, mild swelling, redness, and burning sensations. The condition is usually treatable with over-the-counter medications, though ringworm that persists for several weeks or causes significant pain may need to be treated with prescription antifungal drugs.

Outbreaks are caused by fungi of the Trichophyton, Microsporum, and Epidermophyton genera, which are found worldwide. An individual usually acquires ringworm from direct contact with an infected person or animal. Athlete's foot and jock itch, two common forms of tinea, can develop after coming into contact with a contaminated shower room floor, towel, or piece of clothing.

Symptoms of tinea may include skin redness, itching, and dryness. Infections on the arms, legs and torso often create ring-like lesions that are dark red and raised along the outer edges. Some cases lead to the appearance of red and white pus-filled blisters and areas of dry, scaly, flaky skin. Ringworm on the scalp is likely to cause hair loss at the site of infection.


Most mild cases, including athlete's foot and jock itch, can be treated at home with over-the-counter topical solutions available at most pharmacies and supermarkets. Topical sprays, creams, and lotions can soothe itching and burning sensations and resolve tinea in less than one month. In addition to applying medicine, a person can shorten healing time by frequently washing the skin with mild soap and water. Doctors strongly suggest that people avoid scratching the affected area, as doing so could further irritate the skin and create the opportunity for further bacterial or fungal infection. An infection that does not go away after about four weeks should be brought to the attention of a primary care doctor.

A physician can usually diagnose tinea by examining the site of infection and asking about symptoms. He or she may decide to collect a small skin sample for laboratory analysis of the specific fungus involved. After making an accurate diagnosis, the doctor can prescribe oral or topical antifungal drugs and explain ways to avoid future infections. Most cases of ringworm can be prevented by maintaining good personal hygiene and wearing sandals in locker rooms and showers.


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Post 6

When I was in grade school I remember there was a tinea outbreak at our school. We were never sure where it started but it certainly had all of the parents and faculty in full panic mode. I remember being forced to wait in line to see the nurse, be inspected carefully and sent away. It was very similar to what they did for routine lice checks back in the day.

If I remember correctly only a handful of kids had ringworm during the outbreak but it was enough to have to make everyone wash their hands what seemed like every five minutes, and we all had to keep our outside clothing in plastic bags. It was all very surreal.

Post 5

Tinea, or ringworm is one of the reasons you have to teach your children not to share things like hairbrushes, hats and shoes. I was surprised when I was watching the kids at school during a fieldtrip how many of them were just trading off hats and jackets for fun. While their trading seemed harmless enough, getting ringworm can be pretty terrible, and of course there is always head lice to worry about.

For my kids I make sure they know that everyone should keep personal care items like brushes to themselves, and that they are never to share hats. While ringworm may not actually give you worms, the name can certainly make children wary of sharing hats.

Post 4

Tinea infection has gotten a "bad reputation" because of its nickname "ringworm."

I've had athlete's foot just once, but that was enough. My skin was very itchy and scaly, especially between the toes. I went to a dermatologist and she did the test. She said that the test didn't show any fungi. The condition didn't get any better, so I went back to the dermatologist. This time she said it was a fungal infection, gave me a prescription, and it was gone in short order.

Post 3

I remember when I was in fifth grade, one of my classmates had ringworm all over his arms. I sat behind him one row over so I kept looking at his arms. Somebody told me he had ringworm. I imagined that there was an actual worm that was burrowing into his skin. Not so, it's caused by a fungus.

I was scared to death I was going to catch it. After a few days, he was sent home and didn't come back until he was being treated. Haven't seen a case of ringworm since!

Post 2

Ringworm isn’t actually a worm at all. It is just a fungus, but it’s raised up in a circular pattern with a ‘head’ and a ‘tale’ end. So, it kind of resembles what a worm might look like under the skin.

I had seen them before, and had even had one as a child, but they were not common things around my house.

Then, however, my husband joined an elite team of people at his workplace that often have to suit up in helmets and special gear. The first time he put on one of those interchangeable helmets, he came home complaining that his head itched.

I thought little of it, until it got worse and worse

. It got so bad, he actually shaved his head bald. When he did, I saw the problem immediately.

He had contracted the ringworm fungus from that helmet and had huge ringworms all over his head.

I was horrified! But, a little treatment and he was good as new!

Post 1

Ringworm is usually not all that difficult to treat, but my baby sister got a horrible case of them that took months to eliminate.

We’re not sure exactly what was going on, but she suddenly began to get ill for no reason. Then, she got a single ringworm.

We treated it, and thought nothing more of it. Until she got another one, and then another one, and then another one.

She ended up with over fifty different ringworms on her body, and we simply could not get them to go away. Even our doctor was puzzled over the problem.

The doctor theorized that she contracted the first from some a young litter of kittens that she

had become infatuated with, and that perhaps repeated exposure kept the infection invigorated.

However, it wasn’t long after this incident that the same sister, who was only 16 at the time, developed shingles. We still aren’t sure what had her so sick, but everything went away as suddenly as they came.

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