What is tinea? Tinea, commonly referred to as ringworm, is a broad term used to describe a fungal infection of the skin (dermatophyte), whether affecting the body (tinea corporis), the scalp (tinea capitis), the groin (tinea cruris, or jock itch), the feet (tinea pedis, or athlete’s foot), or the nails (tinea unguium, or onychomycosis). While tinea is seen most frequently in children, it occurs in all age groups. Although ringworm is the term most frequently encountered, the infecting agent is actually a fungus that thrives in warm, moist areas and is most likely to occur with constant moisture from perspiration or as a complication of minor injuries to your nails, scalp or skin. The name ringworm comes from a ring-like pattern frequently seen with tinea, the development of red patches on the skin that are often redder around the outside (forming the ring), with a more normal skin color in the center. Tinea is contagious through skin-to-skin contact or through contact with contaminated items. It is highly treatable, usually clearing up within four weeks of starting treatment, and is not life threatening. While tinea is a condition requiring prompt attention, it is not an emergency. At the same time, left untreated, it can become complicated by a more widespread bacterial infection. Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for tinea but symptoms recur or persist after four weeks of care, if it spreads to your scalp or beard, or if you see signs of a bacterial infection developing, marked by symptoms such as swelling in the affected area, skin that is warm to the touch, an increase in redness, pus or discharge, fever, or streaks of red along the skin, particularly on a limb.