What Is Tinea Corporis?

Ringworm on the Body

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Tinea corporis, or ringworm on the body, is a common fungal infection. The main symptom of ringworm is a ringlike rash. This fungal infection typically affects large body areas, such as the arms and legs.

Despite its name, the condition is not caused by worms. It is caused by a contagious type of fungus that can be transmitted through close contact. It is easily treatable, and most people do not experience any severe symptoms or complications.

This article will cover the signs and symptoms of tinea corporis, its causes, how it is diagnosed and treated, and more. 

Ringworm marking on the skin

Reproduced with permission from ©DermNet NZ and ©Raimo Suhonen www.dermnetnz.org 2022

Tinea Corporis Symptoms

The symptoms of ringworm appear differently depending on the area of the body with the infection.

General symptoms include:

  • Itchy or scaly patches that appear red, gray, or brown
  • Patches might appear as raised skin plaques
  • A round, flat patch of itchy skin
  • Pustules (plus-filled blisters) that might appear in patches 
  • Patches with well-defined and raised edges 
  • Overlapping rings 
  • Hair loss
  • Red, scaly, cracked skin

Ringworm can affect different body areas and has names based on the body area involved. 

Areas of the body that might be affected by ringworm are:

Ringworm that affects other body areas, such as the legs or arms, is tinea corporis. 

Ringworm might present differently based on skin tone. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, people with light skin tones will have red or pink patches, while people with darker skin tones will have brown or gray patches.


Tinea corporis is caused by fungi known as dermatophytes. Tinea-causing fungi thrive in moist and humid environments. 

Around 40 different species of fungi lead to ringworm. Common fungi that cause ringworm include species in the genera of Trichophyton, Microsporum, and Epidermophyton.

The main ways ringworm spreads are:

  • Skin-to-skin contact with someone who has the infection
  • Contact with an infected animal (a pet or livestock)
  • Contact with contaminated surfaces (sweaty clothing or a locker room floor)
  • Sharing objects with a person who has the infection (bedding, towels, etc.)
  • Contaminated soil 


A healthcare provider can diagnose tinea corporis by examining your skin. You might be asked about your symptoms and how long the rash has been on your skin.

A Wood's lamp exam might be done to view the affected skin area. Some types of fungus will glow under this black light. For example, a wood lamp light on a scalp lesion caused by a Trichophyton tonsurans fungus would not show a light, but an Microsporum canis fungus on the scalp will elicit a green color. 

To confirm a diagnosis of ringworm, the healthcare provider might request additional tests, including:

  • Skin biopsy: This test takes a sample of skin to be sent to a lab to look for the presence of fungus.
  • Fungal culture test: This involves the removal of discharge from a blister and sending the fluid to a lab to look for the presence of a fungus.
  • KOH exam: With this exam, your healthcare provider will scrape off a small area of affected skin to a slide. Once on the slide, potassium hydroxide (KOH) will be added to the skin sample to break apart the skin cells, making the fungus easier to see under a microscope.


Antifungals can treat ringworm. They are available in various formulations. Your healthcare provider will treat your ringworm based on how widespread your symptoms are.

Treatments include antifungal creams and powders, steroid creams, shampoos, and oral medicines, such as: 

  • Antifungal creams and powders: Different over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal creams, gels, or powers are available to treat ringworm. Examples of OTC antifungals are Tinactin (tolnaftate), Lotrimin (clotrimazole), and Desenex (miconazole).
  • Antifungal shampoos: Nizoral A-D (ketoconazole) shampoo can help keep ringworm on the scalp from getting worse. Since it doesn’t stop the infection, you may also need prescribed oral medicine.
  • Oral medicines: If symptoms of ringworm get worse and don’t clear after a week or two, a healthcare provider might prescribe oral medicine. They might also prescribe an oral medicine if you have ringworm on your scalp or many body areas. Prescription oral antifungals used to treat ringworm include Diflucan (fluconazole), Nizoral (ketoconazole), and Lamisil (terbinafine). 
  • Steroid creams: A corticosteroid cream can help manage itch and skin inflammation, but it will eliminate ringworm. 
  • Home remedies: There is little research on home remedies for treating ringworm. However, the available research suggests that tea tree oil and apple cider vinegar might have some effects on ringworm.

Stop the Spread 

Keeping your skin clear can prevent infection in other body areas and transmission to other people and pets in your household. It will also prevent reinfection once the ringworm has cleared up. 

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, some self-care methods to manage ringworm are:

  • Treat the affected area for as long as possible. Don’t stop treatment until you have finished the full treatment course to ensure the infection clears and does not return.
  • Wash your hands after touching a body area with ringworm.
  • Keep the infected skin areas clean and dry. 
  • Avoid wearing clothing, socks, or shoes that make you sweat. 
  • When drying wet skin, use a different towel to dry ringworm-affected body areas.
  • Treat all ringworm areas. For example, if you have ringworm on your feet and hands, treating both body areas can prevent the infection from spreading, allowing the skin to clear from one treatment course. 
  • Change your clothing, including socks, every day. Wash clothes before wearing them again, including workout clothes. 
  • Shower immediately after working out to wash away sweat and keep skin areas dry.

To prevent transmitting ringworm to others:

  • Do not share towels and personal care items.
  • Wear shower slippers or waterproof shoes in locker rooms, common shower areas, or pool areas. 
  • Disinfect or throw out infected items. 
  • If you think your pet has ringworm, take the pet to the veterinarian.
  • If treatment doesn’t clear the rash, tell your healthcare provider. They can prescribe additional treatments to treat the fungal infection better.


Antifungal medicine can clear ringworm in every body area. It might take longer for some body areas to clear up than others. It is, therefore, essential to follow your healthcare provider's treatment plan and keep up with any follow-up appointments. 

Complications of ringworm are rare. But left untreated, ringworm can worsen and lead to a bacterial infection. Signs of a secondary bacterial infection include fever, pain, swelling, redness, and drainage.

If you or a child experience a secondary infection with ringworm, contact a healthcare provider immediately or head to your local emergency department.


Tinea corporis, or ringworm on the body, is a common fungal infection. It causes a red itchy, ring-shaped, scaly rash on the arms and legs and other large body areas. It can spread easily and quickly to other body areas. 

The ringworm rash is contagious and can be transmitted through close contact. You can acquire ringworm from an affected person, animal, or object. 

Ringworm can affect other body areas, including the hands, feet, scalp, and groin. This fungal infection is treated with antifungal medicines available over the counter or by prescription.

With appropriate treatment, the ringworm can clear up within a few weeks, but it is crucial to finish treatment and reach out to a healthcare provider if the infection doesn’t clear up. 

10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Ringworm: overview.

  3. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Ringworm: signs and symptoms

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About ringworm.

  5. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Ringworm: who gets and causes.

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By Lana Barhum
Lana Barhum has been a freelance medical writer since 2009. She shares advice on living well with chronic disease.