Tinea Faciei (Face Ringworm) – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

The human skin is a host to many different types of microbes, including fungi. Two types of fungi are mainly found to live on the human skin: yeasts and dermatophytes. Under normal circumstances, the numbers of these microbes (including the fungi) are kept in check by the competition between different microbial species and the body’s immune system. This way, the microbes can live on the skin without causing any disease. However, the fungi on the skin may be able to cause skin infections under some conditions.

Most of the fungal skin infections in humans are caused by the dermatophytes. Regions of the body that are most commonly affected by fungal skin infections include the groin, feet, face, scalp, beard, mustache, and central parts of the body. Depending on the area of the body that is affected, the fungal skin infections are referred to by different names.

Read more on ringworm infection.

The following are some of the common skin areas susceptible to fungal infections and the respective names of the fungal infections in these parts:

  • Groin: tinea cruris (or jock itch)
  • Feet: tinea pedis (or athlete’s foot)
  • Face: tinea faciei
  • Scalp: tinea capitis
  • Beard and mustache areas: tinea barbae
  • Body: tinea corporis

All the above mentioned fungal skin infections are caused by dermatophytes. Tinea versicolor is an example of a fungal skin infection caused by yeast. The body areas that are susceptible to tinea versicolor infection include the chest, shoulders, back, and neck.

What is tinea faciei?

Tinea faciei refers to a fungal (dermatophyte) infection of the face. Tinea faciei affects most (but not all) of the skin areas on the face. When the fungal infection occurs in the skin areas covered by the beard and the mustache, the condition is usually referred to as tinea barbae. When both the face and the hairy areas of the face are affected by the fungal infection, then the condition may be described under the term tinea faciei.

The appearance of the infected skin areas in tinea faciei varies on an individual basis. Therefore, tinea faciei is commonly mistaken for other skin diseases, including tinea versicolor. However, tinea versicolor is caused by a yeast rather than a dermatophyte. In addition, tinea versicolor does not affect the face in most cases. Also, the appearance of the skin in tinea versicolor (especially in children) is quite different from the appearance of the skin in tinea faciei.

Not all areas of the face are affected equally in tinea faciei infections. The skin lesions in tinea faciei are most common on the cheeks, forehead, nose, chin, and the area around the eyes. The cheeks are the most commonly affected areas, and may display either a single large patch or smaller, multiple patches of infection.

Other types of fungal skin infections (such as tinea corporis and tinea capitis) may also occur alongside tinea faciei. In such cases, skin areas on the scalp may also be affected along with the face. Tinea faciei infection is a relatively rare fungal infection. It is most likely to spread from pets to humans.

Read more on tinea capitis.

Signs and Symptoms

Tinea infections cause the appearance of a ring-shaped rashes on the skin. Tinea faciei is no exception. Due to the characteristic ring-shaped skin rash, tinea infections are also commonly referred to as ringworm infections. The ring-shaped skin rash is typically red in color, has a raised border and a dry and scaly skin area in the middle. In some cases, crusts or blisters (vesicles) may also be present in the skin rash.

Even the skin that surrounds the area of the rash may have a reddish, inflamed appearance. The presentation of skin rash in tinea faciei is different from that of the skin rash in tinea versicolor. The skin rashes in tinea versicolor typically appear as whitish patches, which may be mistaken for hypopigmentation or vitiligo.

Read more on itchy face.

Causes of Tinea Faciei

Tinea faciei, like most other fungal skin infections in humans, is caused by dermatophytes. The dermatophytes are fungi that are able to live on the human skin by feeding off it. These fungi are able to penetrate the outmost layer of the skin (stratum corneum) with the help of a group of enzymes known as keratinases. The keratin protein in the outermost layer of the skin is broken down by keratinases, which enables the dermatophytes to cause skin infections.

However, these fungal skin infections are usually limited to the outermost layer of the skin, and do not extend to the hair follicles. The dermatophytes that cause tinea faciei have a predilection for the animal and human skin. Therefore, these fungi are also referred to as zoophilic or anthropophilic. Zoophilic fungi can be transmitted from animals to humans, whereas anthropophilic fungi can be transmitted between humans.

Examples of zoophilic dermatophytes that can cause tinea faciei include Tinea verrucosum and Microsporum canis. Examples of anthropophilic fungi that can cause tinea faciei include Trichophyton mentagrophytes, Trichophyton tonsurans and Trichophyton rubrum.

Humans are most likely to catch zoophilic fungi through close contact with pets (such as dogs and cats) and cattle (livestock). Compared to anthropophilic fungi, zoophilic fungi tend to cause more severe skin inflammation in humans.Fungi that live on skin are not able to cause skin infections if the skin is healthy. Fungal skin infections are more likely to happen on unhealthy skin.

Signs of unhealthy skin vary from skin dryness to breaks in the skin barrier. The presence of underlying skin diseases also makes a person more prone to getting fungal skin infections. Genetics may also play a role in making a person more susceptible to fungal skin infections. The risk of getting fungal skin infections also increases if a person lives in close contact with animals that may harbor dermatophytes.

Treatment of Tinea Faciei

Tinea faciei is treated through antifungal medications. In most cases, topical antifungal medications are effective in treating the condition. Examples of some topical antifungal medications are terbinafine, ciclopirox, itraconazole, and miconazole.

Oral antifungal medications are used when a fungal skin infection also affects the follicles (causing fungal folliculitis). It is important to note that fungal folliculitis may occur in cases where individuals self-medicate with topical corticosteroids in an attempt to clear rashes on the skin.

Therefore, it is worth mentioning that self-medication is not advised in the treatment of skin rashes. One should consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment of skin rashes due to fungal infections.

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