All You Need to Know About Ringworm: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment
Dr. Angel Rivera
Ringworm is a fungal infection that can be seen on the skin. It can affect both children and adults, but it's most common in children. Ringworm is very contagious from person to person or even animal to people as ringworm in cats and dogs is common and it is often spread in communal areas or through your pets. In this article, we'll discuss ringworm symptoms, ringworm causes, and ringworm diagnosis so you know what to look out for if you have ringworm.
Ringworm, also known as dermatophytosis, is a common name for a ring-shaped red patch of skin caused by fungi. It is a skin infection caused by tiny fungi that primarily affects the skin cells on the top layer of your skin and can often cause an itchy rash. Ringworm can cause major outbreaks all over the body as well as temporary hair loss on the scalp of infected hairs and other hairy areas. Ringworm may grow out from on nail beds after penetrating through cracks or trauma such as a sports injury or minor skin injuries. There are several common types of ringworm, ringworm of the body which is also called tinea corporis, ringworm of the groin which is also called jock itch or tinea cruris, ringworm of the feet which is also called tinea pedis or athlete's foot, and ringworm of the scalp which is also called tinea capitis. There are numerous different fungi that can cause ringworm; however, most of the fungi are from the genera Trichophyton, Microsporum, or Epidermophyton.
Ringworm is most common in children but can affect people of any age or gender. Children are more susceptible to ringworm because they tend to play outside on playgrounds that have been contaminated by other children or by animals such as cats, or dogs. Children are also more likely to have ringworm of the feet because they tend to be barefoot in places such as locker rooms, showers, pools where ringworm can easily spread from person to person. Adults are most commonly affected by tinea corporis or tinea capitis but may occasionally get ringworm of the groin or feet and can get any other type of ringworm.
The most common symptoms of ringworm infection is a circular rash or ring-shaped rash on your skin that may be red in color and cause itchy skin with clear boundaries beyond where normal healthy skin begins. The borders can also appear raised above surrounding areas due to swelling caused by ringworm. The skin may also be yellowish or opaque, flaky, or scaly patches when you have ringworm. Other symptoms can include ringworm of the groin also known as jock itch, ringworm of the feet often appears between toes and underneath toenails where it is difficult to treat because an anti-fungal medication can have trouble reaching this area, scalp ringworm which produces bald patches that may appear on your head or eyebrows and can be very itchy.
Ringworm is contagious and can spread from person to person direct contact and it does not require sexual contact. It’s also possible for ringworm to be transmitted from an infected animal like cats and dogs if they have ringworm living in their fur that infects humans at the site of skin-to-skin contact. Other common ways of contracting a ringworm infection are public showers, contact sports where there is skin-to-skin contact with an infected person is possible such as martial arts or wrestling, excessive sweating, wearing tight clothing, and having a weakened immune system among others. Sharing unwashed clothing and bedding can also cause the spread of ringworm.
To obtain a diagnosis of ringworm is usually very easy. A doctor can usually tell if you have ringworm by looking at the skin and sometimes may need to take a sample of your skin, called skin scrapings, for testing in order to confirm that it is ringworm. Ringworm is usually diagnosed based on its appearance, location, and type (as noted above there are three ringworm types or genera of fungi that cause ringworm).
Treatment for ringworm consists of over-the-counter antifungal treatments, usually creams or lotions, that you apply directly to your skin, ringworm shampoo that you can purchase over-the-counter, or oral antifungal medication. Topical treatments like creams and lotions are usually applied twice a day for two weeks but ringworm treatment of the scalp may require up to six weeks before it clears completely depending on how severe they are. Treatment of ringworm can usually be accomplished by over-the-counter skin ointments but if it persists you will want to see your doctor or healthcare provider who may then prescribe an oral antibiotic such as a pill or capsule. Oral prescription medicine should be taken for the prescribed period of time which can be anywhere from two to four weeks depending on how severe ringworm is on your body.
There are several home remedies for treating ringworm too. These home remedies include tea tree oil, apple cider vinegar, coconut oil, and turmeric. Please note that these at-home remedies should not replace using an antifungal cream as they are scientifically unproven and are purely anecdotal to help with ringworm.
The best way to prevent ringworm is not to share personal items, like clothes, bedding, or towels because it’s contagious and will continue spreading if you do so. Make sure you wear clean clothing, especially socks or underwear that are made of cotton to prevent ringworm from spreading while you sweat more during the day. Try not to touch or itch your infected skin because this can spread it and make sure to keep all ringworm infections away from other parts of your body by applying an antifungal cream around it just in case you get ringworm in another area of your body. After touching pets or animals, it is always advisable to wash your hands before touching any part of your body. If you have pets, it will also help to regularly disinfect their living areas and clean and pet hair. Wearing shoes or sandals in communal showers or if walking in communal places can also help with prevention. If you excessively sweat it is also important to keep your skin clean aand as dry as possible to avoid ringworm.
Ringworm is a fungal skin infection that can affect several different areas of the body. It normally manifests with the development of ringworm lesions whichs are a ring-shaped red mark on the skin and can be very itchy. Most people get ringworm from direct skin to skin contact with ringworm fungus, having exposed skin touch areas that are communal, or ringworm from pets. Your doctor can usually easily diagnose ringworm by observation but, if necessary, a skin sample can be sent in for a test. There are many different over-the-counter treatments for ringworm that should work in most cases; however, should your symptoms persist, your doctor may prescribe an oral treatment antifungal medicine such as an antibiotic pill. To prevent ringworm it is advised to not share clothing, bedding, or towels with anyone and to wear shoes in communal spaces. Washing your hands after touching a pet or animal before touching your own skin will also help prevent ringworm. Thank you for reading our article, should you have any further questions or believe you may have ringworm, we recommend that you talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or healthcare provider on which treatment will work best for you.