Tinea Infection – The Most Common Fungal Infection of the Skin

Tinea is a type of fungal skin infection. Tinea is caused by the skin fungi dermatophytes. These dermatophytes live in the dead top layer of the skin. Heat and moisture allow these microorganisms to proliferate and cause infection. The types of tinea depend on the location of infection.

• Tinea Capitis (Scalp Ringworm)
Tinea can also infect the scalp. This infection usually occurs in children and results in scaly patch hair loss. Hair loss is not permanent and will be resolved once infection is eradicated.

• Tinea Pedis (Athlete’s foot)
Tinea Pedis is the most common type of tinea infection. This infection happens on the foot usually between toes and soles. It can spread by direct contact with infected material such as walking barefoot in bathroom, public showers, sharing of shoes, moist socks, and moist feet. Leather and plastic footwear that do not allow air circulation can also lead to tinea pedis. Fungi mostly affect the soles of the feet and the space between the fourth and fifth toes. The infection can cause peeling, scaling, itching, and blistering that can occur only in one foot or both.

• Tinea Cruris (Jock Itch)
This infection involves the groin of the individual. Skin creases like the groin are one of the susceptible areas where fungi can thrive. These areas tend to sweat a lot and cause moisture, providing the perfect condition for tinea to proliferate. Jock itch is usually more common in men than women. To prevent this infection, one should have proper hygiene such as regular washing of the area and regular change of underwear.

• Tinea Unguium (Onychomycosis/Nail Fungus)
This infection occurs in the nails. Toenail infection is closely associated with tinea pedis. This kind of infection is difficult to deal with. Oral antifungal are needed in order to eliminate the disease. The great toenail is the most common place for this infection. The nail will start to turn yellow and after a few years will thicken and break off easily. Fingernail infection can also happen but is less common.

• Tinea Corporis (Ringworm)
The name is given to the fungi infection of the skin. This infection is classified as a type of tinea occurring in general parts of the body such as arms, legs and trunk. The infection may spread by direct contact such as from person to person, contact with infected materials, and contact with infected animals. The lesions of this infection form into a ring – thus the name ringworm. This type of tinea usually clears up within a few weeks through the use of anti fungal creams.

Treatment includes topical and oral anti fungal medications.

Topical medications are usually used for treatment of tinea capitis, cruris, pedis and corporis. The most commonly used topical medications are miconazole, clotrimazole, ketoconazole and terbinafine.

Oral treatment is needed for nail fungus and cases of severe and prolonged tinea infections. The recommended oral medications are Terbinafine and Itraconazole.

One needs to keep the skin dry and avoid contact with infectious materials. Basic prevention measures include maintaining good hygiene, avoiding touching the lesions, wearing lose clothing and washing hands regularly especially when one handles pets and soil.

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