Tinea corporis

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Definition

Tinea corporis is a skin infection due to fungi. It is also called ringworm of the body.

Related skin fungus infections may be found:

 

Alternative Names

Fungal infection - body; Infection - fungal - body; Tinea of the body; Tinea circinata; Ringworm - body

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Fungi are germs that can live on the dead tissue of the hair, nails, and outer skin layers. Tinea corporis is caused by mold-like fungi called dermatophytes.

Tinea corporis is common in children but can occur in people of all ages.

Fungi do well in warm, moist areas. A tinea infection is more likely if you:

  • Have wet skin for a long time (such as from sweating)
  • Have minor skin and nail injuries
  • Do not bathe or wash your hair often
  • Come in close contact with other people (such as in sports like wrestling)

Tinea corporis can spread easily.You can catch it if you come into direct contact with an area of ringworm on someone's body. You can also get it by touching items that have the fungi on them, such as:

  • Clothing
  • Combs
  • Pool surfaces
  • Shower floors and walls

Ringworm can also be spread by pets. (Cats are common carriers.)

Symptoms

The rash begins as a small area of red, raised spots and pimples. The rash slowly becomes ring-shaped, with a red-colored, raised border and a clearer center. The border may look scaly.

The rash may occur on the arms, legs, face, or other exposed body areas.

Symptoms may include itching.

Signs and tests

Your health care provider can often diagnose tinea corporis by looking at your skin. 

You may also need the following tests:

Treatment

Keep your skin clean and dry.

Use creams that treat fungus infections.

  • Creams that contain miconazole, clotrimazole, ketoconazole, terbenifine, or oxiconazole are often effective in controlling ringworm.
  • You can buy some of these creams over-the-counter or your doctor may give you a prescription.

To use this medicine:

  • Wash and dry the area first.
  • Apply the cream, beginning just outside the area of the rash and moving toward the center. Be sure to wash and dry your hands afterward.
  • Use the cream twice a day for 7 to 10 days.
  • Do not use a bandage over ringworm.

Rarely, you may need medicine you take by mouth if your infection is very bad. 

A child with ringworm can return to school once treatment has started.

To prevent the infection from spreading:

  • Wash all towels in warm, soapy water and then dry them.
  • Use a new towel and washcloth every time.
  • Clean sinks, bathtubs, and bathroom floors well after using.
  • Wear clean clothes every day and do not share clothes.

Infected pets should also be treated.

Support Groups

Expectations (prognosis)

Ringworm often goes away within 4 weeks when using antifungal creams. The infection may spread to the feet, scalp, groin, or nails. 

Complications

  • Skin infection from scratching too much
  • Skin disorders such as pyoderma or dermatophytid

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if ringworm does not get better with self-care.

Prevention

References

Elewski BE, Hughey LC, Sobera JO, et al. Fungal Diseases. In: Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Schaffer JV, et al, eds. Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2012:chap 77.

Hay RJ. Dermatophytosis and other superficial mycoses. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier;2009:chap 267.

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 11/20/2012
  • Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

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This page was last updated: April 14, 2014

         
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