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Ringworm or Candida: What’s the Difference?

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Ringworm Facts

Ringworm infections don't involve worms, of course. These fungi are responsible for:

  • Athlete's foot, or tinea pedis
  • Jock itch, also called tinea cruris
  • Infections on the scalp and hair, or tinea capitis
  • Nail infections
  • Infections on the legs, arms, and trunk

You will usually notice itching. "When it starts out, it can be itchy and burning," Stein Gold says of ringworm infections. There can be a ring-shaped rash. The center might be red, also, or could be normal skin color.

If on the scalp, this fungus can cause hair loss.

There can be scaly patches and inflammation.

Fungal infections sometimes attack the feet, between the toes. It can look ''mushy,'' says Weinberg. Or, it can live on the side of the feet, giving the foot a moccasin type look, he says. Weinberg reports formerly serving as an investigator for Ortho Dermatologics.

The infection can be spread from another infected person, an object with fungi on it (such as a towel), or even your household pet.

Candida Facts

Yeast infections, commonly caused by a group of fungi from the species Candida, can also affect many body parts. These organisms can cause infections when there is overgrowth. These infections can occur at many sites, including:

  • The vagina
  • The mouth, called oral thrush
  • Skin, especially under skin folds such as under the breasts
  • Nail beds
  • Warm moist areas, such as the underarms

Women with a vaginal yeast infection often report a white, cheesy discharge. In the mouth, the infection shows up as thick, white lacy patches on the tongue.

On the skin, the infections are often a red, flat rash with scalloped edges. There are ''satellite" lesions nearby, Weinberg says. There can be pustules.

Men can be affected with yeast infections in the scrotum, Weinberg says. This infection often shows up as bumps.

Fungal Infection Treatments

Topical antifungal creams and lotions are often used, say Stein Gold and Weinberg. Some are over the counter, such as:

  • Clotrimazole (Lotrimin, Mycelex)
  • Miconazole (Desenex, Micatin)
  • Terbinafine (Lamisil)

Often the same topical medicine will work for ringworm and yeast, Stein Gold tells WebMD. There's usually no harm in trying over-the-counter remedies first for uncomplicated skin infections, she says. "If you use one of these OTC products for a few weeks and it's not better, I'd certainly have it looked at," Stein Gold says.

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