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Tinea meaning ringworm is a contagious (with the exception of Tinea versicolor) fungal skin infection. Although its name means ringworm, in reality the skin condition is not caused by a worm but the name is derived from its characteristic pattern of distribution which refers to series of rings as it spread to the surrounding areas. Tinea infection is quite common among children and is contagious. The mode of transmission is usually through direct skin-to-skin contact, as well as contact with potential contaminated items. Soil is usually the source of the fungus but animals such as cats, dogs and rodents are carriers. The most often primary source of the fungus is from the infected persons. Minor skin trauma (e.g. scratches or excoriations and abrasions) and poor skin hygiene increases the potential for tinea infection.

Tinea Skin diseases

The genera Epidermophyton, Trichophyton and Microsporum are the most common fungal species’ causative agents also called dermatophytes. These fungal elements usually live on skin, hair, and nails and like to thrive in warm, moist areas. They can attack various parts of the body and the disease name follows depending what body part is affected such as the following conditions: Tinea corporis affecting the upper and lower extremities and the trunk or torso; Tinea capitis affecting the scalp ; Tinea cruris (jock itch) affecting the inguinal or the groin area ; Tinea pedis (athlete's foot) affecting the feet, usually in between the webs of the digits or may also affect the soles ; Tinea unguium affecting the fingernails and toenails ; Tinea versicolor and Tinea manuum affecting the hands and palms.

The characteristic clinical picture of ringworm is the appearance of single or multiple red raised itchy patches with distinct borders or margins, often the center is lighter than the outer areas hence; with an appearance similar to that of a ring. These lesions may become very itchy and may cause extreme discomfort to the patient. If the affected area involves hairy parts such as the scalp or beard area, bald patches may become evident.

Tinea capitis which is the ringworm of the scalp may begin with a tiny sore resembling a pimple before progressing into patchy, flaky, or scaly lesions. The flaky lesions may be confused with dandruff. Aside from swelling, redness and tenderness of the scalp in some cases, some hair tends to fall out or break into stubbles. In cases of Tinea unguium, the nails may thicken, causing whitish or yellowish discoloration, and eventually may crumble and fall off spontaneously. Athlete's foot or Tinea pedis infection may present as itchiness, burning, redness, and stinging on the soles of the feet. There might be some form of flake, peel, blister, or crack formation.

Jock itch or Tinea cruris which is defined as an infection of the groin and upper thighs, are commonly seen in very active or sporty kids who sweat a lot. But the fungus can actually thrive on the skin of any kid who spend more time in hot and humid weather; wearing tight-fitting clothing like bathing suits that cause repeated friction; share towels and clothes, and do not immediately dry off their skin completely. This type of infection can persist for weeks or months if left untreated once diagnosed. The following are some of the most common symptoms of jock itch: itching, redness, chafing, or burning in the groin, thigh, or anal area with some degree of skin flaking, peeling, or cracking.

Diagnosis of ringworm is primarily based on the characteristic appearance of the skin lesions. Another is by doing skin scraping and making a smear to be examined under a microscope with the use of a potassium hydroxide solution (KOH). The solution works by dissolving human tissues leaving the fungal elements (hyphae) behind. The skin scraping may also be inoculated on an agar (nutrient) growth plate in a microbiology laboratory and allowed the fungus to grow using a saboraud medium. Some of the fungi may be identified as it fluoresces under a black light examination.

Over-the-counter topical creams, ointments, power and spray are the usual drug forms used to eradicated most of the fungal elements once diagnosed with tinea infection. The doctor most of the time recommend an antifungal topical ointment for ringworm of the skin or an oral medication for those with ringworm of the scalp and nails. It is very important that washing then drying first of the affected area is done first using a clean towel before the application of antifungal topical preparations. Clothing is advisable to be changed especially the underwear daily, particularly in cases of jock itch. The treatment is usually for a period of 2 weeks, even if the symptoms disappear. This is to prevent recurrence of the infection.

Some preventive measures to a avoid fungal infection include: keeping the groin or inguinal area clean and dry always, particularly after showering, swimming and performing activities that make you sweat a lot; avoid sharing combs, pillows, and hats with others; wear waterproof shoes or flip-flops in public showers; alternate the use of shoes or sneakers to prevent buildup of moisture and fungus growth ; avoid socks that trap moisture or make the feet sweat, the use of cotton or wool socks or socks made of fabric that wicks away the moisture are preferable instead; choose sneakers that are well ventilated via small pores to keep the feet always dry.

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