What is ringworm?
Ringworm is a common skin infection. It is very infectious and causes a ring-shaped red rash on your skin. This rash appears scaly, crusted in the shape of round, red patches on the skin. Sometimes these rashes can cause hair loss in patches on the scalp, itching, and blisters.
Ringworm can affect both human and animals. There have been cases of ringworm transmission from animal to human. It is most common among children but can affect people of any age.
Ironically, ringworm isn’t caused by worms. It is caused by a skin infection, medically known as tinea, from a type of fungi called dermatophytes.
What causes ringworm?
Ringworm is caused by a fungus that grows on the skin. There are three types of fungi that cause ringworm: trichophyton, microsporum, and epidermophyton. Once the fungi set themselves on the skin, they will spread out in rings. Sometimes the center of the ring may clear up and a new ring develops from the edge of the old ones.
These fungi can live for an extended period of time in the soil. Human and animals contacted with this soil can get infected.
Children are most likely to get ringworm. They spread from child to child when children play, share personal items such as hats or brushes. Adults can catch ringworm from sharing towels or sports equipment.
Pets, who often play in the dirt, can be infected with ringworm and pass it to people.
What are the symptoms of ringworm?
In most cases, it is common to get ringworm on the scalp, although you can get ringworm anywhere else on the body. Ringworm appears in a ring-like shape on your skin. The infected skin will look red and is irritated on the outer edge but clear up on the inside. The skin may be scaly and itchy. In more severe cases:
- The rings may multiply, grow in size and merge together.
- The rings may feel slightly raised and the skin underneath may be itchy.
- Blisters and pus-filled sores may form around the rings.
The ring will expand as it progresses. You can have one or more patches of ringworm at a time.
Ringworm on the face and neck may not appear in ring shapes but they are itchy and swollen. The texture of the skin may become dry and flaky. In hairy areas, you may notice the hair breaking away. Bald spots from ringworm can be permanent if you don’t treat it early.
Ringworm on the hand causes the skin to thicken on the palm and in the middle of the fingers. It might affect one hand or both and typically just shows up on one side.
What are the tests and diagnosis of ringworm?
Ringworm is easy to recognize. Your doctor can diagnose by looking at the skin for characteristics of ringworm. However, they might want to take some tests such as:
- Use an ultraviolet light to find fluorescent materials that occur in a ringworm infection.
- Scrape an area skin to look under the microscope, to find out which fungus is causing the infection.
What are the treatments for ringworm?
Your doctor will prescribe medication to kill the fungus depending on the severity of the infection. Ketoconazole is a prescription strength cream that is often used to treat fungal infections. Over-the-counter medications and skin creams may be recommended as well. Over-the-counter products may contain clotrimazole, miconazole, or other related ingredients. They will also advise on shampoo that prevents the ringworm from spreading.
To prevent ringworm from coming back, here are a few things you can do:
- Avoid clothing that irritates the infected area.
- Wash bedding and clothes daily during an infection.
- Throw away old combs or brushes that are infected.
- Keep your skin dry and clean.
- Don’t share hats, towels, or personal items with other.
Ringworm is an infectious disease and you can easily get it from any objects you contact with. Ringworm is treatable, but it can be irritable and might cause permanent hair loss. If you have signs of ringworm, see your dermatologist or doctor for treatment.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: January 4, 2017 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017
Ringworm. http://www.medicinenet.com/ringworm/article.htm. Accessed December 29, 2016.
Ringworm (Dermatophytosis). http://www.healthline.com/health/ringworm#Outlook7. Accessed December 29, 2016.
Ringworm and other fungal infections. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Ringworm/Pages/Introduction.aspx. Accessed December 29, 2016.
What You Should Know About Ringworm. http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/guide/understanding-ringworm-basics#1. Accessed December 29, 2016.