Updated 1 December 2020

What is Tinea?

man scratching sock
Tinea also known as "Ringworm" is quite a common infection of the skin, hair or nails  caused by a variety of  fungi . This fungus is known to thrive in humid, moist and wet environments. The most common tinea fungus infections include;
  • Tinea cruris or Jock itch: This is characterised by a rash situated in the groin area.
  • Tinea pedis or Athlete's foot: This is a tinea fungus that affects the skin of the feet.
  • Tinea corporis or body ringworm: This is a fungus infection that affects the epidermis or top layer of the skin and on virtually any part of the body.
  • Onychomycosis (Nail fungal infection): This is a tinea fungal infection that affects the toenails or fingernails.
  • Tinea Capitus or Scalp ringworm: This tinea fungus is found primarily on the scalp.
Infections are spread by direct skin contact with humans or animals, or via indirect contact from contaminated objects, floors or in the soil. While Tinea fungal infection can affect practically anyone, the most susceptible group of people are athletes or anyone that spends a considerable amount of time in public showers and changing rooms. Also, Tinea pedis or athlete's foot is common in people that wear sneakers and other sports footwear often. It is important to properly dry yourself with a clean towel after taking a shower or bathing since the fungus needs warm, moist conditions to survive and thrive. In addition to this, you should avoid sharing personal items that come into contact with your body, such as a towel, flannel, sponge, underwear, stockings, hand gloves and so on.

Symptoms of Tinea

Regardless of the type of tinea fungus infection, the most common symptoms include; For jock itch, body and scalp ringworm you have;
  • a flaky and reddish ring-like rash,
  • blisters,
  • itching, and
  • bald spots.
Athlete's foot is characterised by white, flaky, peeling or splitting skin which can be painful to touch due to the fungus eating away at the skin between the toes. Nail fungal infection or Onychomycosis comes with a white or yellow discolouration.

Ringworm Transmission

Tinea or ringworm are fungal infections that are highly contagious and caused primarily by a group of fungi called dermatophytes. Fungal species such as Trichophyton, Microsporum and Epidermophyton are known to invade and rapidly grow on human keratin. Tinea fungus grows outwardly on a person's skin and this gives the circular, ring shaped pattern that is visible on the top of the skin.    Being highly contagious, Tinea is transmitted by skin to skin or body to body contact which can be by way of a simple handshake or even a body hug. You can also get Tinea from touching an object that has been contaminated by the fungus, such as clothing, bedding, towels, footwear or even a doorknob.                                                         

Tinea Diagnosis

To diagnose the infection, your doctor would conduct a physical examination of the site. Typically, for infection on the body on the body, your doctor will be looking out for any redness which is the classic telltale sign of Tinea characterised by a ring-like, raised lesion with a central part that is clear and free of any flaking. To test for the presence of Tinea fungus, your doctor may need to take scrapings or samples of your hair or nail to be tested.

Treatment and Recovery from a Tinea Infection

If you have a Tinea infection, the first thing you need to do is to keep the site of the infection dry and clean. This is because Tinea thrives in warm, moist conditions. The use of anti-fungal topical gel, ointment or cream may be prescribed by your doctor and these are over-the-counter medications which are easy to get from your local pharmacy. Using any of these over-the-counter drugs can take several weeks and in some cases a few months for the medication to clear up the fungal infection. The duration it takes for the fungus to completely clear up is dependent on the type of fungus involved. Onychomycosis (nail fungal infection) tends to take longer to clear up and may even require the added administration of oral medication to successfully treat the infection. Topical antifungal cream should still be applied to the site of an infection at least 2 weeks after the Tinea fungal infection is no longer visible. This will help to prevent a recurrence of the infection.