Tinea is a fungal infection of the skin which, although quite common, needs to be treated to prevent it spreading further. The best-known tinea infection is athlete’s foot where the foot can become itchy, or you may experience burning or stinging sensations in the area that is infected by the tinea. It also can produce an unpleasant smell if the foot is affected.
Depending on where the tinea is, other symptoms include a red scaly rash that is shaped like a ring, cracking, splitting and peeling in the toe web spaces, blisters, yellow or white discoloration of the nails, and bald spots on the scalp.
Tinea is very contagious and can be spread via wet floors or sharing footwear or towels and also through direct skin-to-skin contact.
All fungi need warm, moist environments to thrive and tinea is no exception so the hottest, most sweat-prone areas of the body are the most likely areas for a tinea infection to occur.
Confusingly, tinea is also known as ringworm because of the shape of the rash that is a symptom of infection and not because a worm is involved.
Tinea infections are known by specific names which relate to the areas of the body affected. The most common types of tinea include:
- Athlete’s foot – tinea of the foot
- Jock itch – tinea of the groin
- Ringworm of the scalp – tinea of the head (mainly affects children)
- Ringworm of the body – tinea of the body
- Nail infection – tinea of the toe or finger nails,
Some precautions can help you to avoid catching a tinea infection. Heat and sweat contribute to tinea infections and so after washing, the skin must be dried thoroughly, particularly between the toes and within skin folds.
Wearing cotton instead of synthetic material socks is recommended as is the use of antiperspirants to control sweating.
Footwear such as thongs should be worn at swimming pools, and in locker rooms, gyms and other communal areas prone to moisture and sweat.
Some care should also be taken at nail salons as one form of tinea infects the nails.
If you think you have tinea talk to your community pharmacist who can recommend the best treatment options for your case.
Keeping the affected area clean and dry helps to prevent the fungus spreading. The next step is to get rid of the existing infection. Tinea responds well to anti-fungal medicines and your pharmacist can discuss the use of these medicines with you.