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Tinea refers to a specific type of fungal infection, caused by dermatophyte fungus. Fungal infections are often divided into 3 different types:

Tinea is often given different names, depending on the location of the infection – for example tinea pedis affects the feet (athletes foot) and tinea corporirs affects the limbs (also sometimes referred to as “ringworm’ due to the ring-like nature of some of the lesions it causes).

Often, multiple locations of infection exists on the same patient, most commonly transferred from the foot. The exact species of tinea vary by geographical location. Some types are caught from pets or farm animals. Probably the most common form is Tinea rubrum. 


  • Usually caught from another infected individual
    • e.g. shared towels, close skin contact, walking barefoot in shared changing rooms
  • Tinea pedis
    • Occlusive footwear – e.g. heavy work boots
    • Excessive sweating, excessive exercise
    • Diabetes
    • Co-existing fungal nail infection
  • Use of steroids
  • Immunsuppression


  • May be acute or gradual onset
  • Usually itchy and inflamed
    • Tinea pedis is often particularly itchy
  • If widespread at presentation it can be particularly difficult to treat
  • Tinea pedis
    • Usually asymmetrical pattern
    • Can be bilateral or unilateral
    • Most commonly affects the spaces between 4th and 5th toes
    • Scaly and may affect the whole of the sole of the foot
Tinea corporis (ringworm)
Tinea corporis (ringworm). Image from Dermnet. Used in accordance with Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 (New Zealand) license.
Tinea pedis.
Tinea pedis. Image from Dermnet. Used in accordance with Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 (New Zealand) license.


  • Diagnosis is usually clinical
  • Skin scraping can be sent
    • Typical features can be seen on microscopy – which may negate the need for culture
    • Culture can take months

Differential diagnosis

Tinea pedis

Tinea corporis


General advice

  • Hygiene – dry thoroughly between feet after washing or showering
  • Avoid use of occlusive footwear
  • Use barrier protection – i.e. sandals – when using shared facilities

Topical anti-fungal agents

  • OD or BD
  • Examples include:
    • Terbinafine (Lamisil)
      • Some studies suggest this is the most effective agent
    • Clotrimazole (canesten)
    • Miconazole (Daktarin)

Oral anti-fungal agents

These may be indicated in severe or resistant cases. Options include:

  • Terbinafine
    • 250mg OD for 2 weeks
    • In the case of fungal nail infection, long courses of up to 12 weeks, and frequent LFTs may be required
  • Fluconazole
    • 150mg once weekly for 6 weeks
  • Itraconazole

Prevention of recurrence

  • Dry feet thoroughly after bathing
  • Avoid occlusive footwear
  • Thoroughly dry shoes and boots before wearing
  • Clean shower and bathroom floors with bleach
  • Treat shoes with anti-fungal powder


  • Tines corporis – Dermnet NZ
  • Tinea pedis – Dermnet NZ

  • Murtagh’s General Practice. 6th Ed. (2015) John Murtagh, Jill Rosenblatt
  • Oxford Handbook of General Practice. 3rd Ed. (2010) Simon, C., Everitt, H., van Drop, F.
  • Beers, MH., Porter RS., Jones, TV., Kaplan JL., Berkwits, M. The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy

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Dr Tom Leach

Dr Tom Leach MBChB DCH EMCert(ACEM) FRACGP currently works as a GP and an Emergency Department CMO in Australia. He is also a Clinical Associate Lecturer at the Australian National University, and is studying for a Masters of Sports Medicine at the University of Queensland. After graduating from his medical degree at the University of Manchester in 2011, Tom completed his Foundation Training at Bolton Royal Hospital, before moving to Australia in 2013. He started almostadoctor whilst a third year medical student in 2009. Read full bio

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