What is the pathophysiology of tinea infections?

Updated: Apr 27, 2021
  • Author: Mityanand Ramnarine, MD, FACEP; Chief Editor: Jeter (Jay) Pritchard Taylor, III, MD  more...
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Dermatophytes are keratinophilic fungi and have the ability to invade keratinized tissue (eg, hair, nails, any area of the skin). They invade, infect, and persist in the stratum corneum of the epidermis and rarely penetrate below the surface of the epidermis and its appendages. Humid or moist skin provides a very favorable environment for the establishment of fungal infection. At a minimum, the skin responds to the irritation of the superficial infection by increased proliferation in the basal cell layer, which causes scaling and epidermal thickening. Clinically, tinea infections are classified according to the body region involved/infected, as follows:

  • Tinea capitis - Scalp (see the image below)

    Tinea capitis; gray patch ringworm. Gray patch ref Tinea capitis; gray patch ringworm. Gray patch refers to the scaling with lack of inflammation, as noted in this patient. Hairs in the involved areas assume a characteristic dull, grayish, discolored appearance and are broken and shorter.
  • Tinea manuum and tinea pedis - Palms, soles, and interdigital webs

  • Tinea corporis - Body (shown in the image below)

    Annular plaque (tinea corporis). Annular plaque (tinea corporis).
  • Tinea cruris - Groin

  • Tinea barbae - Beard area and neck (shown in the image below)

    Wax model of kerionlike tinea barbae. Courtesy of Wax model of kerionlike tinea barbae. Courtesy of the Museum of the Department of Dermatology, University of Medicine, Wroclaw, Poland.
  • Tinea faciale - Face

  • Tinea unguium (onychomycosis) - Nail

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