What is tinea (fungus)?
Dermatophytic infections are caused by one of three genera of dermatophytes: Tricophyton, Microsporum, and Epidermophyton. Tine infections of the skin are sometimes called “ring worm”, but no “worm” is involved. Tinea infection on the skin is often annular (i.e. a “ring”) and scaly.
All tinea species all feed on keratin, which is found in skin, with the assistance of digestive keratinases and nutrient absorbing hyphae. In addition, tinea versicolor (also called pityriasis versicolor), caused by a species of malesezzia, is termed “tinea” as well.
Regardless of the specific type of tinea, the treatment is generally an antifungal medication. Some tine infections can be treated with topical antifungals, such as ketoconazole cream. However, tinea infection of the nails or hair-bearing areas often require oral medications to clear them, such as terbinafine (Lamisil). New topical antifungal nail preparations are more effective than previous generations of topical nail antifungals, and some nail infections can be cleared with topical treatment.
Sometimes a fungal infection can be diagnosed with high confidence just by visual inspection by an experienced dermatologist. Confirmatory tests, such as culture, nail clipping, or skin biopsy, are sometimes required.