What is ringworm?
The term ringworm refers to fungal infections that occur on the surface of the skin. The name comes from a preconceived idea that the infection was caused by a worm, which it is not. This is a fungal infection of the skin. However, the name of the ringworm remains. Some of these fungi produce round scaly patches on the skin, but most do not.
On the other hand, very round red spots or rashes on the skin are not caused by a fungal infection. Physical examination of the affected skin, evaluation of skin scraping under a microscope, and culture tests can help healthcare professionals make proper diagnoses and distinctions of other conditions. Proper diagnosis is the best for successful treatment.
The medical term for ringworm (tinea is the Latin name for a growing worm.) Medical professionals add another term to refer to the part of the body that contains the fungus. For example, tinea capitis refers to ringworm of the scalp, body fungus of tinea corporis, foot fungus tinea pedis, etc.
- Dermatophyte infection
Causes of ringworm
Three types of fungi cause ringworm: trichophyton, Microsporum, and epidermophyton. These fungi are more likely to live longer as spores in the soil. Ringworm can contract humans and animals after direct contact with this soil.
The infection can also be transmitted through contact with infected animals or humans. The infection is usually spread in children and by sharing objects that are susceptible to fungi. Different types of fungi cause ringworm. Doctors call ringworms by different names depending on where they affect the body:
- Jock itch(tinea cruris) refers to ringworm infection of the skin around the groin, inner thighs, and buttocks. It’s most common in men and adolescent boys.
- Ringworm of the skin (tinea capitis) often begins with an isolated scalp, which develops into bald, scaly, itchy patches. It is most common in children.
- Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) is the common name for ringworm infection of the foot. It is most often seen in people with bare feet in public places where the infection can spread, such as locker rooms, showers, and swimming pools.
- Ringworm of the body (tinea corporis) is often characterized by a round ring shape.
Symptoms of ringworm
It can affect any part of the body as well as the skin of the fingernails and toenails. The symptoms of ringworm often depend on the part of the body infected, but they usually include:
- Ring-shaped rash
- Hair loss
- Red, scaly, cracked skin
- Itchy skin
Symptoms appear 4 to 14 days after exposure to the fungus that causes this infection.
Symptoms of ringworm by position on the body:
- Scalp: Ringworm on the scalp usually appears as scales, itching, redness, circular baldness. The bald spots increase in size and multiple scars develop as the infection spreads. Ringworm of the scalp is more common in children than in adults.
- Feet: Symptoms of ringworm on the feet include redness, swelling, scaling, itchy skin between the toes (especially the little finger and adjacent fingers). The sole and heel of the foot are also affected. In severe cases, the skin of the feet can cause blisters.
- Beard: Symptoms of this disease on the chin include peeling, itching, red spots on the cheeks, chin, and upper neck. The spots may be covered with scab or pus, and the affected hair may fall out.
- Groin: Ringworm on the groin appears as dry, itchy red patches, usually on the inner sides of the skin folds on the thigh.
Treatment for ringworm
If you have this disease, your dermatologist will treat you with antifungal medication. This medication comes in many forms like creams, ointments, and tablets. What you use depends on the area of the body that needs treatment.
- Skin: An antifungal ointment or cream often removes ringworm from the skin. Most of these drugs are applied twice a day for two to four weeks. Most of these approved drugs are safe and effective for children. If the dermatophytosis covers a large area of skin, you may need to take a prescription antifungal medication. When the ringworm starts to go away, you will clearly see the scale before the red one.
- Athlete’s foot: Over-the-counter antifungal cream or spray will eliminate athlete’s foot. The mild case usually clears up within two weeks. If an athlete’s foot is more severe or does not heal within two weeks, the dermatologist may prescribe a strong medication.
- On the scalp: On the scalp, It requires prescription medication. Children with dermatophytosis of the scalp are often given a medicine called griseofulvin. Your dermatologist can prescribe pills, capsules, or lotions. Sometimes another prescription drug is prescribed. It is important to take the antifungal medication exactly as prescribed and for as long as directed. Dermatophytosis may not go away if you stop taking it earlier than expected.
- Beard: Ringworm in the chin area requires a prescription antifungal medication and a personalized treatment plan. Your dermatologist will need to remove the diseased tissue to heal this area. You also need to shave the infected hair.
- Nails: You need prescription medicine to remove ringworm from your nails. Since the nails grow slowly, it takes time for the dermatophytosis to disappear. It is important to keep all subsequent appointments with your dermatologist. You will also need to follow preventive measures to avoid rebuilding.
- Hands: You can clean the mild case with an antifungal cream. A strong antifungal medication such as terbinafine or itraconazole is often required. If the dermatophytosis has spread to a nail, you must take an antifungal medicine to get rid of the infection.
Ringworm is difficult to prevent. The fungus that causes it is common, and the condition is contagious before symptoms appear. Take these steps to reduce your risk of getting dermatophytosis:
- Keep cool and dry: Do not wear thick clothing for long periods of time in hot, humid weather. Avoid excessive sweating.
- Don’t share personal items: Do not use your clothes, towels, hairbrushes, sports equipment, or other personal items. And don’t borrow those things.
- Educate yourself and educate others: Learn about the risk of dermatophytosis from infected people or pets. Talk to your kids about dermatophytosis, what to look for, and how to prevent infection.
- Keep clean: Wash your hands frequently. Keep shared areas clean, especially in schools, daycares, gyms, and locker rooms. If you participate in contact sports, shower immediately after practises or the game, and keep your uniform and equipment clean.
Departments to consult for this condition
- Department of dermatology