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Ringworm or Candida: What’s the Difference?

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WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

It can begin as a small sore, scaly skin, or a rash. Then it often spreads, itches, or burns.

If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, you may have a fungal infection. The infections can affect anyone, but if you (or your children) play sports or are engaged regularly in other physical activities, your chance of contracting these is higher.

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”Fungus is everywhere,” says Jeffrey Weinberg, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

"It's not just in the gym," he says. It's there, of course, but it's also in school locker rooms, fine hotels, your house, and other places.

Knowing how to recognize a potential fungal skin infection early and what to do about it can minimize your misery.

Even if you're just an everyday exerciser or a junior varsity member, you can take notes from the competitive athlete community. In 2010, the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA) issued its guidelines for skin disease prevention, including fungal infections.

It did so because of the number of outbreaks involving skin diseases, including fungal infections, among competitive athletes. More than half of all infectious disease outbreaks in competitive sports, from 1922 through 2004, involved skin diseases, the association found.

The NATA guidelines are aimed at reducing that toll. What works for them can also work for you.

WebMD also asked two dermatology experts for an update on what you should know about fungal skin infections. We zeroed in on two common culprits causing fungal skin infections -- ringworm and Candida. Here's what we found out.

Ringworm and Candida: What's the Difference?

Both types of infection are fungal, says Linda Stein Gold, MD, director of dermatology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. At their root are fungi, not the bacteria or viruses that cause other infections.

Technically speaking, "ringworm is a dermatophyte," says Weinberg. A dermatophyte is simply a type of fungi that can cause skin, hair, or nail infections.

"Candida is a yeast," says Weinberg. These fungi can cause infections on many areas of the body.  

These fungal infections affect some of the same body parts but also different ones, Stein Gold tells WebMD. The appearance of the infections can differ, too.

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