Ringworm (Tinea)

What Is It?

Ringworm, also called tinea, is a skin infection caused by fungi, microscopic organisms that are similar to yeast and molds. It does not have any relation to worms, but is called "ringworm" because the infection can produce ring-shaped patches on the skin that have red, wormlike edges.

Although ringworm can affect almost any area of the body, it favors places that are warm, dark and moist, such as skin in the groin area, the spaces between the toes and the deep skin folds of obese people. People can catch ringworm in several different ways, including:

  • Direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected person

  • Playing with, or caring for, an infected pet or farm animal

  • Using an infected person's clothing, shoes or personal grooming items such as combs, brushes or towels

  • Sharing an infected child's toys, especially stuffed toys

  • Touching a contaminated surface — Some common high-risk surfaces include floors in bathrooms, showers and locker rooms; shower stalls; gym mats; and pool decks, especially at school or community pools. In general, any surface that is used by many different people can carry ringworm, especially if the surface is also wet or damp. Even contaminated carpets and couches can spread the infection.

Depending on its specific location, tinea may be known by a more common name, such as athlete's foot or jock itch. The various types of ringworm include:

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