Infection - fungal - body

Alternative names
Fungal infection - body; Tinea corporis; Tinea of the body; Tinea circinata; Ringworm - body

Tinea corporis is an infection of the body surface by mold-like fungi called dermatophytes.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The body normally hosts a variety of microorganisms, including bacteria, mold-like fungi (dermatophytes), and yeast-like fungi (such as Candida). Some of these are useful to the body. Others may multiply rapidly and cause symptoms.

Tinea corporis (often called ringworm of the body) is a common skin disorder, especially among children, but it may occur in people of all ages. It is caused by mold-like fungi (dermatophytes). See also tinea capitis (involving the scalp), tinea cruris (jock itch), and tinea pedis (athlete’s foot).

Fungi thrive in warm, moist areas. Susceptibility to fungal infection is increased by poor hygiene, prolonged wetness of the skin (such as from sweating), and minor skin or nail injuries.

Tinea infections are contagious and can be passed by direct contact with affected individuals or by contact with contaminated items such as combs, clothing, shower, or pool surfaces. They can also be transmitted by contact with pets that carry the fungus (cats are common carriers).


  • Itching of the affected area  
  • Skin lesion, rash       o On the arms, legs, face, trunk (usually exposed body areas)       o Ring shaped       o Reddened patch (abnormally dark or light skin)       o Borders advance and spread and the center clears       o Borders appear scaly, distinct

Signs and tests

The diagnosis is primarily based on the appearance of the skin. If tests are used, they may include the following:

  • A KOH (potassium hydroxide) test, in which skin scrapings are dissolved in KOH and then examined under a microscope. This test is painless and easy, and the results are available immediately.  
  • A skin lesion biopsy with microscopic examination or culture to look for dermatophytes.

Keep the skin clean and dry. Topical (applied to the skin) over-the-counter antifungal creams, such as those that contain miconazole, clotrimazole, or similar ingredients, are often effective in controlling ringworm.

Severe or chronic infection may require further treatment by the health care provider. Oral antifungal medications may be given. Stronger, prescription topical antifungal medications, such as ketoconazole may be needed. Antibiotics may be needed to treat secondary bacterial infections. Infected pets should be treated.

Expectations (prognosis)
Ringworm usually responds to topical treatment within 4 weeks. Severe or resistant cases usually respond promptly to oral antifungal therapy.


  • Secondary bacterial skin infections, cellulitis  
  • Spread of tinea to feet, scalp, groin, or nails  
  • Pyoderma, dermatophytid, or other skin disorders  
  • Systemic (whole body) side effects of medications (See the specific medication)

Calling your health care provider
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if ringworm does not improve with self-care.


Good general hygiene helps prevent ringworm infections. Avoid contact with infected pets as much as possible.

Clothing and household items, such as combs and bathroom surfaces, should be cleaned and dried thoroughly before reuse or use by another person to prevent the spread of the infection. Wash the hands thoroughly after contact with any fungal infection, including contact to treat the infection.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 7, 2012
by Mamikon Bozoyan, M.D.

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