Ringworm is a general term used to describe fungal infections of the skin. Contrary to its name, ringworm is not an infection by a worm, but due to fungus that can infect and thrive on the skin. The medical term used for ringworm is “Tinea” and the condition may be further classified depending on the location of the infection. Fungal infections commonly present as round inflamed scaly patches that may spread over time. There are different clinical variations depending on the type of fungus and location of the infection.

  • Tinea corporis: Most common form of fungal infection which can affect the trunk, arms and legs. Usually presents as round scaly patches.
  • Tinea pedis: Also referred to as “athlete’s foot.” This type of fungal infection affects the feet and can present as generalized scaling of the feet or inflamed red scaly patches between the toes.
  • Tinea manuum: Affects the hands and can present as generalized scaling of the palms.
  • Tinea cruris: Also referred to as “jock itch” and involves the groin area. Presents as large inflamed scaly patches that may gradually expand. Patients often have simultaneous infection of the feet. The most common cause of Tinea cruris is fungal infection of the feet which gradually spreads to the groin.
  • Tinea faciei: Fungal infection of the face that can present as round scaly patches with raised borders. More common in children and treatment often consists of antifungal creams or gels. If there is involvement of hair follicles, oral antifungals may be necessary for appropriate treatment.
  • Tinea capitis: Fungal infection of the scalp. More common in children and presents as scaly patches on the scalp. Patients may also have associated hair loss. Treatment often involves oral antifungals for 6-8 weeks. Creams or gels are often insufficient for fungal infections of the hair and nails.
  • Tinea unguium: Also referred to as “onychomycosis” is fungal infection of the nails. Infection of the toenails is more common than fingernails, and commonly presents as yellow thickened scaly nails (although there are different variations). Creams or gels are often insufficient, and treatment consists of oral antifungals which are taken for up to three months. Despite three months of therapy, it can take six to nine month to notice improvement because the affected nails have to grow out.

Despite the classic presentation of Tinea (ringworm) with round scaly patches, there are multiple other inflammatory conditions of the skin (nummular dermatitis, pityriasis rosea, guttate psoriasis, contact dermatitis, etc.) that can have a similar presentation. Different tests such as scraping of the skin or a biopsy may be necessary to help confirm a diagnosis. Treatment can vary from topical therapy to systemic medications depending on the type and location of your infection. Subtle involvement of the skin can often be managed by topical antifungal creams or gels. However, a severe infection of the skin or involvement of the hair and nails often need systemic therapy for complete resolution.

Depending on your skin type and symptoms, our dermatologist can help determine the appropriate treatment for you.

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