Tinea incognito

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Tinea incognito in the forearm of a child being treated for contact dermatitis.

Tinea incognito is a fungal infection (mycosis) of the skin masked and often exacerbated by application of a topical immunosuppressive agent. The usual agent is a topical corticosteroid (topical steroid). As the skin fungal infection has lost some of the characteristic features due to suppression of inflammation, it may have a poorly defined border and florid[disambiguation needed] growth. Occasionally, secondary infection with bacteria occurs with concurrent pustules and impetigo.[1]


Clinical suspicion arises especially if the eruption is on the face, ankle, legs, or groin. A history of topical steroid or immunosuppressive agent is noted.

Confirmation is with a skin scraping and either fungal culture and/or microscopic exam with potassium hydroxide solution. Characteristic hyphae are seen running through the squamous epithelial cells.


The use of a topical steroid is the most common cause. Frequently, a combination topical steroid and antifungal cream is prescribed by a physician. These combinations include betamethasone dipropionate and clotrimazole (trade name Lotrisone) and triamcinolone acetonide and clotrimazole. In area of open skin, these combinations are acceptable in treating fungal infection of the skin. Unfortunately, in area where the skin is occluded (groin, buttock crease, armpit), the immunosuppression by the topical steroid might be significant enough to cause tinea incognito to occur--even in the presence of an effective antifungal.


The removal of the offending topical steroid or immunosuppressive agent and treatment with a topical antifungal is often adequate. If the tinea incognito is extensive or involves hair bearing areas, treatment with a systemic antifungal for minimum three weeks may be needed. But in case of spreading it may needed more than one month.


  1. ^ Habif, T. P. (1995) Clinical Dermatology. Mosby, 3rd ed.; pp. 41-42.