Tinea (Skin Fungus)


Tinea is a condition caused by skin fungus (usually a species called T. rubrum). When these yeast microbes aren’t kept in check by the body’s natural defenses, they can get out of control and cause a number of unsightly and unpleasant symptoms. For example, the affected area of skin may suffer from itching, redness, pustules, scaliness, oozing lesions, dandruff, and even hair loss. Jock itch, athlete’s foot, and ring worm are all common names for skin fungus depending on the part of the body that is affected. Ringworm is the easiest to recognize with its central patch of apparently clear skin surrounded by a circle of red, inflamed skin. Another version of this fungal rash called tinea versicolor often occurs on the chest and back and appears as white or orange/yellow scaly patches. It tends to be most prevalent in the summer since heavy sweating creates the type of moist environment that help yeasts flourish. All of these fungal skin infections are contagious and can be passed on through direct contact with an infected person or contaminated objects. These rashes are some of the most common skin complaints that lead patients to seek treatment from a dermatologist. They can last for years if they are not treated.

Treatment Options

The type of treatment recommended depends on the type of fungus involved and where the infection is occurring on the body.

  • Topical anti-fungal medications such as Lamasil will often clear fungus from the skin within a few weeks with consistent application.
  • Athlete’s foot is usually treated with a medicated powder in all footwear as well to limit re-infection.
  • Medicated body washes and shampoos (such as products containing selenium sulfide) may help resolve tinea versicolor and keep it from recurring.
  • Fungus in the scalp may be resistant to topical treatment and require the prescription of an oral anti-fungal such as Fluconazole.
  • Nail fungus (onychomycosis) is particularly difficult to treat and may require an oral anti-fungal and partial removal of the nail. Full restoration of healthy nail tissue may take up to a year.

Additional Information

Hydrocortisone creams aren’t recommended for tinea because they tend to mask the symptoms without actually eliminating the infection. Some people get recurring fungal infections which may be a sign of an underlying immune system problem. Or, it may simply recur because of continued exposure to moist conditions.