Usually I see tinea infections when the weather starts getting hot and humid and people start sweating more. But if you’re hitting the gym several times a week, or sweating a lot for some other reason, you could get one of the itchiest and uncomfortable rashes around – tinea. Let me tell you more about this rash and what you can do if you get one.
A Very Itchy Skin Rash
There are several forms of tinea versicolor that you may be familiar with by their common name – athlete’s foot (tinea pedis), jock itch (tinea cruris), or even “ringworm” (tinea corporis, see more below). There’s even a form of tinea that looks like common dandruff (tinea capitis) but is actually an infection of the scalp that flakes and falls.
The word “versicolor” comes from the Latin meaning variable color as tinea infections can range from white, to tan, to brown, and bright red, somewhat raised lesions.
Tinea is caused by a fungal infection of your skin by tiny yeast called Malassezia furfur. These microscopic yeasts are always present in your skin to some degree and are usually kept under control with regular bathing and drying of skin. Yet, when you start sweating a lot they can multiply out of control and result in the itchy rash associated with them.
Tinea can often infect the skin of your body (tinea corporis) where your skin is warmer, moister, receives friction from clothes, and is without much light exposure. This includes skin beneath breasts, around your waistline, in your groin, inner thighs and the bottoms of your feet. It can create a very uncomfortable, very itchy rash.
Tinea can affect people of all ages but it most commonly occurs in people aged 20-40. Because it is caused by a fungal organism, there are other factors that can contribute to a tinea infection:
- Suppressed immune systems (HIV, leukemia)
- Infected animals, other people
- Exposure to soil (working outside around your house)
One form, tinea facei, can affect the skin of your face – especially in men with facial hair – and causes a bright red, raised lesion rash with a somewhat swollen appearance. As a dermatologist, this is usually the form of tinea that brings patients in to me for treatment.
Tinea facei can occur on the cheeks, around the eyes, on the nose, forehead, chin, and ears. You may have inadvertently rubbed fungal organisms into your facial skin from soil, a pet, or coming in contact with them while working outdoors. I often see patients with tinea facei in the late spring/early summer, when the weather is nice. They’ve been out working in their yards in the sun, perhaps sweating, and accidentally rubbing dirt into their skin. This can prompt an almost overnight outbreak of this rash. It can start to look and feel like a severe sunburn – red, swollen, and very uncomfortable.
What Can You Do For A Tinea Infection?
Tinea rashes don’t always need to be seen by your dermatologist – you may treat them successfully at home with some over-the-counter antifungal medications or even natural remedies. There are some over-the-counter antifungal preparations that you can try first, but be sure to keep these creams out of your eyes and do not take internally. They include:
- Clotrimazole cream: Marketed as “jock itch” preparations, Drugs.com states this cream can also be used to treat other body “ringworm” (tinea) infections, under breasts, inner thighs, athlete’s foot, etc.
- Miconazole cream: Usually marketed for fungal rashes occurring with vaginal yeast infections, you can also apply this cream to other areas of your skin. Drugs.com states that an alternative use of this cream is to treat body “ringworm” (tinea).
- Dandruff shampoos: These contain 1% selenium sulfide, or salicylic sulfide, which are also antifungals, that can also help mild tinea rashes. They are less effective than antifungal creams and may cause a skin irritation in some people. Use a cotton ball to apply to affected areas for 10 minutes, then wash off. Repeat for 1 week.
Here are also some natural treatments and things you can do to help a tinea infection:
- Tea tree oil: An antifungal oil from the Australian Melalueca alternifolia plant. Use a cotton ball to dab on clean, dry tinea lesions.
- Apple cider vinegar: It’s acidic content restores the skin’s natural acid mantel to help it heal itself. Dilute 1-2 teaspoons in 1 cup of warm water and apply with a cotton ball.
- Optimize nutrition: Malnutrition can be a root cause of fungal organisms getting a stronghold in your body. Deficiencies in antioxidant vitamins like A, C, E and the minerals chromium (many diabetics are deficient in this) and zinc aid fungal infections. Eating too much sugar can aid the growth of yeasts in your body. Probiotic foods like yogurt, Kefir, “sour” foods like sauerkraut, pickles, can deter their growth.
Tinea infections tend to recur especially in hot humid weather. If your rash doesn’t start to improve within 3 days with over-the-counter remedies, or it seems like it’s become infected from scratching at it, you should see your dermatologist for a prescription antifungal/antibiotic treatment.
Jay Brachfeld M.D.
5Ways to Choose an Antifungal Cream, http://www.livestrong.com/article/11663-choose-anti-fungal-creams
Tinea Facei, http://www.skinsight.com/adult/tineaFacieiRingwormofFace.htm
Treatment of Tinea Versicolor, http://dermatology.about.com/od/fungalinfections/a/tineaversrx.htm
image credit: webctor.com