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Ringworm, jock itch, athlete's foot - you've heard of them. Believe it or not, they are all basically the same thing: a tinea infection caused by a type of fungus called dermatophytes. (Read about "Microorganisms") The fungus grows on your skin (Read about "Skin"), hair or nails. The name changes depending on where the fungus takes hold and grows. (Tinea versicolor, another skin disorder caused by a different type of fungus, results in an overgrowth that produces uneven skin color and scaling.)
Tinea capitis is usually called ringworm, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). Like most tinea infections, as it grows it spreads out in a circle leaving normal looking skin in between. That makes it look like a ring. At the edge, the skin will be red, raised and scaly. Some people think it looks like a worm under the skin and that's where the name "ringworm" comes from. There is no worm under the skin, though. Instead, it is a fungus growing on the skin. If it's in the scalp, the hair can be destroyed, leaving bald patches.
Tinea cruris is commonly referred to as jock itch according to AAFP. The fungus grows in the warm, moist area around the groin. It generally occurs in men and particularly in athletes because of the sweating (Read about "Sweating") they do.
Tinea pedis is the term for athlete's foot. Once again, it's a fungal infection, this time of the feet. It usually shows up as redness and scaling between the toes. The fungus grows in the warm moist atmosphere when feet aren't dried off or when they get very sweaty. (Read about "Sweating") You can pick up the fungus in the locker room but it's harder than you think and you can avoid it by drying your feet well. The fungus can also infect the toenails. (Read about "Feet, Ankles and Legs")
Most tinea infections can be treated with a topical cream. Sometimes however oral medications will be needed. Treatment can last for months to get rid of the infection fully.
No one is sure why people get tinea versicolor; however, as with other tinea infections, the best defense is a good offense.
Prevention means keeping potential infected areas dry and clean. That means not wearing the same socks or other athletic equipment without washing them. The American Academy of Dermatologists and AAFP have some other suggestions:
Also check your pets for fungal infections. Look for spots with hair loss. Your pet can pass an infection on to you. If you are treated and your pet isn't, you could get it again.
All Concept Communications material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.
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