Tinea corporis (“ringworm”)

A common condition that I diagnose almost every week is tinea.  Tinea is the medical term for a fungal (dermatophyte) infection of the skin.  The common term that most of the public know this condition by is ringworm.  One of the interesting things about tinea is that it can often be mistaken for many other skin conditions.  Most commonly eczema.  The common appearance of tinea is a red to pink, scaly patch that expands from the middle outward.  Most textbooks will say it has an advancing border with central clearing.

When a patient comes in with a rash that looks similar to this, most dermatology providers will do a skin scraping for examination under the microscope.  This test is called a KOH prep.  There is a common saying in the dermatology field, “if it scales, scrape it.”  To prepare the sample your provider will use an instrument to collect skin cells from the area in question.  They will then place a cover slip (small square of clear plastic) over the sample and then add a potassium hydroxide solution.  The slide is then heat fixed and is examined under the microscope.  So you may be asking, “what exactly are we looking for?” Recently, I completed some sample slides that are sent to us to prove our competency in reading the slides.  After correctly answering the questions about the slides, I took a picture through the microscope and made some edits to show what I was looking at.  Below you will see that picture.  The red arrows point to the fungus.  This would be a positive sample.


So why do people get tinea?  This condition can be acquired from our environment (most commonly contaminated soil),  other infected people, and from animals.  I always ask patients I diagnose with this condition if they have any pets.  If the answer is yes, it is important that they look them over to see if they have any rashes as well.  Another important thing for patients who are diagnosed with tinea is to have their toenails and fingernails checked.  If the nails appear to have a fungal infection as well, this should be treated.  Nail infections commonly require oral medication (pills) to cure.  If the nails are not treated, they act as a reservoir of fungus that lead to recurrent skin infection.  You must treat the source.

Most commonly, tinea can be treated with a cream that is applied twice daily.  If there is extensive skin involvement, you may require a pill.  Your medical provider will give you the details on how best to treat your rash.

If you have a rash or any other hair/skin/nail concerns please call our clinic to schedule an appointment with one of our excellent medical providers.  We look forward to being your trusted source of dermatology care.


Bentonville:  701 NW McNelly Rd., Bentonville, AR 72712 (479-268-3555)

Fayetteville:  1444 E Stearns St., Fayetteville, AR 72703 (479-718-7546)

Harrison:  620 N Main, Harrison, AR 72601 (870-204-5279)

Ryan Crowder, MPAS, PA-C

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