Tinea corporis is a skin infection that is caused by fungi. It is also called ringworm.
Related skin fungus infections may appear:
- On the scalp
- In a man's beard
- In the groin (jock itch)
- Between the toes
- In other places on the skin
Fungal infection - body; Infection - fungal - body; Tinea of the body; Tinea circinata; Ringworm - body
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 thrive 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
- Have 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:
- Pool surfaces
- Shower floors and walls
Ringworm can also be spread by pets. (Cats are common carriers.)
The rash begins as a small area of red, raised spots and pimples. The rash slowly becomes ring-shaped, with a red, 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.
The area may be itchy.
Exams and Tests
Your health care provider can often diagnose tinea corporis by looking at your skin.
You may also need the following tests:
- Examination of a skin scraping from the rash under a microscope using a special test
- Skin biopsy
- Culture of the skin for fungus
Keep your skin clean and dry.
Use creams that treat fungal 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 health care provider 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 to take medicine 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 you wash.
- Clean sinks, bathtubs, and bathroom floors well after each use.
- Wear clean clothes every day and do not share clothes.
Infected pets should also be treated.
Ringworm often goes away within 4 weeks when using antifungal creams. The infection may spread to the feet, scalp, groin, or nails.
Two complications of ringworm are:
- Skin infection from scratching too much
- Other skin disorders that require further treatment
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if ringworm does not get better with self-care.
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: Elsevier Mosby; 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: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 267.
Reviewed By: Richard J. Moskowitz, MD, dermatologist in private practice, Mineola, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.