Tinea Infections: Athlete’s Foot, Jock Itch and Ringworm

Tinea Infections: Athlete’s Foot, Jock Itch and Ringworm

Tinea Infections: Athlete’s Foot, Jock Itch and Ringworm

What is tinea?

Tinea is a fungus that can grow on your skin, hair or nails. As it grows, it spreads out in a circle, leaving normal-appearing skin in the middle. This makes it look like a ring. At the edge of the ring, the skin is lifted up by the irritation and looks red and scaly. To some people, the infection looks like a “worm” is under the skin. Because of the way it looks, tinea infection is often called “ringworm.” There really isn’t a worm under the skin, though.

How did I get tinea?

You can get a fungus infection by touching a person who has one. Some kinds of fungus live on damp surfaces, like the floors in public showers or locker rooms. You can easily pick up a fungus there. You can even catch a fungus infection from one of your pets. Dogs and cats, as well as farm animals, can be infected with a fungus. Often this infection looks like a patch of skin where fur is missing.

One of every five persons gets a fungus infection at some time.

What areas of the body are affected by tinea infections?

Fungus infections are named for the part of the body they infect. Tinea corporis is a fungus infection of the skin on the body (corporis is the Latin word for body). If you have this infection, you may see small, red spots that grow into large rings almost anywhere on your arms, legs or chest. Tinea Corporis can also look like white spots all over your body. This is called Tinea Versicolor and is very common in the tropics.

Tinea pedis is usually called “athlete’s foot.” (Pedis is a Latin word for foot.) The moist skin between your toes is a perfect place for a fungus to grow. The skin can become itchy and red, with a white, wet surface. The infection may spread to the toenails (this is called tinea unguium–unguium comes from the Latin word for nail). Here it causes the toenails to become thick and crumbly. It can also spread to your hands and fingernails.

When a fungus grows in the moist, warm area of the groin, the rash is called tinea cruris. (Cruris comes from the Latin for leg.) The common name for this infection is “jock itch.” Tinea cruris often occurs in men, especially if they often wear athletic equipment.

Tinea capitis, which is usually called “ringworm,” causes itchy, red areas, usually on the head (capitis comes from the Latin for head). The hair is destroyed, leaving bald patches. This tinea infection is most common in children.

How do I know if I have a fungus infection?

The best way to know for sure is to ask our doctor. Other skin problems can look just like ringworm but have very different treatments. To help decide what is causing your rash, our doctor may scrape a small amount of the irritated skin onto a glass slide (or clip off a piece of nail or hair) and then examine the skin, nail or hair under a microscope. After doing this, our doctor will usually be able to tell if your skin problem is caused by a fungus.

Sometimes a piece of skin, hair or nail is sent to a laboratory to grow the fungus in a test tube. This is another way the laboratory can tell if your skin problem is caused by a fungus. They can also find out the exact type of fungus. This process takes a while because a fungus grows slowly.

How do I get rid of tinea?

Once our doctor decides that you have a fungus infection, different medicines can be used to get rid of it. You may only need to put a special cream on the rash for a few weeks. This is especially true with jock itch.

It can be harder to get rid of fungus infections on other parts of the body. Sometimes you have to take medicine by mouth. This medicine usually has to be taken for a long time, maybe even for months. Some fungus medicines can have unpleasant effects on the rest of your body, especially if you’re also taking other medicines. There are some newer fungus medicines that seem to work better with fewer side effects. You may need to have blood tests to make sure that your body is not having a bad reaction to the fungus medicine. It may take a few months or more to get better. Irritated skin takes time to heal. New hair or nails will have to grow back.

What can I do to prevent tinea infections?

Skin that is kept clean and dry is your best defense. However, you’re also less likely to get a tinea infection if you do the following things:

  • When you’re at home, take your shoes off and expose your feet to the air.
  • Change your socks and underwear every day, especially in warm weather.
  • Dry your feet carefully (especially between the toes) after using a locker room or public shower.
  • Avoid walking barefoot in public areas. Instead, wear “flip-flops,” sandals or water shoes.
  • Try not to wear thick clothing for long periods of time in warm weather. This makes you sweat more.
  • Throw away worn-out exercise shoes. Never borrow other people’s shoes.
  • Check your pets for areas of hair loss. Ask your veterinarian to check them too. It’s important to check pets carefully, because if you don’t find out what is causing your fungus infection, you may get it again, even after treatment.

Can tinea cause serious illness?

A fungus rarely spreads below the surface of the body. Your body usually prevents this. People with weak immune systems, like people with AIDS, may have a hard time getting well from a fungus infection, but they don’t usually have problems with ringworm. Tinea infections usually don’t leave scars after the fungus is gone. A lot of people don’t even know they have a fungus infection and get better without any treatment.

Need more advice?

Come down to Our Clinics for a discussion with Our Doctors, or call our clinics for more information:

Email: hello@dtapclinic.com.sg


  1. Which clinic is best for Jock itch at groin Area.

  2. Hi doc, recently i started to have very itchy feet feeling like smthing wiggling inside (back of my feet, in between toes, ankles & even e inner folds of my palm). Smtimes e itch will develop into small bumps but usually it leave red dots scar. Whats that. I am quite a clean person. What happening to my feet. I worry that is a symptom of diabetics?

    • It can be a range of things, from fungal infection to eczema-type conditions. Please get checked at a doctor.

  3. Hi doc,
    I have this problem about 3 months now and continuing medicating myself alone by over the counter fungal cream. I have in my groin and somewhere around my anus white spot and its very itchy. They where very small before and now became bigger in circumference. What you you think I have. Thanks

    • I’m sorry this platform is not for dispensing medical advice. Please see a doctor for a proper diagnosis.

  4. Hi Dr Tan,

    I am a girl, which of the clinics do i go to if i wish to look for girl doctor?

    Thank you.

    • Dr Elaine Loh

      There are currently 3 women doctors in Robertson, Bencoolen and Scotts clinics. Do give a call to the clinic before coming in to check the timing of the female doctors on duty.

  5. Hi doc tan.
    I suspect tat I am having ringworm issues. Which of the clinics do I go to for assessment and treatment. Or any of them is fine?

    • Dr Justin Sim

      Yes you can go to any clinic to get this issue sorted. The only clinic that is appointment only is Novena. All others can walk in

  6. H Dr Tan, I have been having this itch on my legs and some parts of my armpit for about 5 years now. I can’t help but scratch and it has caused me to have wounds all over my legs. I went to many doctors over the past 5 years. Some say food allergies, some say fungal infection. However none of the creams or pills have helped. I recently went overseas and the doctor gave me a tube of esperson desoximetasone cream. It helped with the itch but now the cream is finishing. Does your clinic have this cream or do you have something better to recommend? Pls help me, thank you.

  7. Sleepless

    Hi Dr Tan,

    I have been to a doctor for my itch near my groin area but he did not state what illness is it. He prescribed canesten cream and a Shampoo body wash, Uriage, CU-ZN+ anti-irritation cleansing Gel and no oral medication

    The problem is, when I apply the cream, twice a day, there is a sudden rush of itch and needle poking feeling to the area of application and it will last for like 15mins and subside. Then it will come and go for the whole day. I am now losing sleep over it cause I will wake up in the middle of the night cause of the itch.

    So I was wondering if I am given the right medication for my jock itch or whatever I am having.


    • I think there are 3 possible explanations for this. 1. Your skin could be broken or abraded. 2. When the cream takes effect on the fungus, sometimes you get this sensation due to the inflammation. 3. The diagnosis and therefore treatment is incorrect. I suggest you see your doctor again and discuss this with him.

  8. arsenal_84

    Hi Dr Tan,

    May I know if jock itch can re-occur every month ?
    If yes, is long-term medication necessary ?
    So far, my GP only prescribed me with 1 week antibiotics and the issue will arise again in the next month.
    It has been a frustrating issue which I hope to recover completely from.

    • Hi arsenal_84,

      By definition, jock itch is caused by a fungal infection of the skin in the groin region. Most of the time it is caused by Candida although there can be other culprit fungus. Fungus loves to grow in an environment that is warm and wet. So lifestyle factors such as living in the tropics, excessive sweating and wearing the same clothes for extended periods of time will increase the risk of jock itch recurrence. You should try to keep the area dry as much as possible. Treatment is with anti-fungal medication either via a cream or oral medicines. Sometimes an extended treatment course is necessary. I cannot comment on whether you will need such a treatment on this forum. For this, please consult your doctor.


      Dr Tan