Ringworm (also called tinea or dermatophytosis) is a common fungal skin and nail infection that has no connection with worms. Ringworm is so named because it causes a red, itchy, circular (ring-shaped) rash. It can occur nearly anywhere in the body and is known by various names based on the body part it usually affects.
Ringworms come in a variety of types, including:
- Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis): It is a type of ringworm that affects the feet.
- Tinea cruris (Jock itch): This type of ringworm affects the inner thighs, groin, and buttocks.
- Tinea barbae: This type of ringworm appears in the beard area.
- Tinea Facies: Face Ringworm
- Tinea manuum: This is a type of ringworm that appears on the hands.
- Tinea capitis: This is scalp ringworm.
- Tinea unguium (Onychomycosis): This is the ringworm type associated with fingernails and toenails.
Ringworm symptoms on the body typically appear 4–14 days post-exposure to the fungus.
Ringworm can appear anywhere on the body, including the fingernails and toenails.
Typical symptoms include:
- a ring-shaped rash
- red, scaly, or cracked skin
- hair loss
- itchy skin
Ringworm can be caused by over 40 different fungi. These fungi are referred to as dermatophytes. Epidermophyton, Trichophyton, and Microsporum are specific dermatophytes linked to different types of ringworm, including tinea capitis (scalp ringworm infection), athlete’s foot, and jock itch.
As specified above, ringworm is caused by dermatophytes, a type of fungus. This fungus thrives on keratin, a protein that is found in the
- hair, and
- outer layer of skin.
Dermatophytes target the scalp, skin, hair, and nails as these are the only regions of the body that contain sufficient keratin to entice them.
Dermatophytes are microscopic spores that can live on the skin’s surface for months. They are extremely tough and can survive in the soil as well as on towels, combs, and other household items.
Dermatophyte spores can be transmitted from:
- Human to human
Ringworm is frequently spread through direct skin-to-skin contact with someone who is infected.
- Animal to human
Ringworm can be contracted by touching an infected animal. While grooming cats, dogs or during petting, ringworm can spread. It is also quite common in cows.
- Object to human
Ringworm can be transmitted via contact with an item or a surface rubbed against or touched by an infected individual or animal, including garments, bedding, linens, brushes, and combs.
- Soil to human
Rarely, ringworm can be transmitted to humans through exposure to the infected soil. Only prolonged contact with heavily infected soil would most likely result in infection.
Children are especially vulnerable to ringworm infection. People who are born with a compromised immune system or who have had their immune systems compromised due to diseases like HIV/AIDS or certain medicines, such as chemotherapy drugs or corticosteroids, are at a high risk of developing this fungal infection.
Risk factors associated with ringworm
Ringworm can affect anyone, but one may be more susceptible if they:
- Reside in a warm and humid climate or environment,
- Use communal locker rooms or showers,
- Take part in contact sports such as wrestling or football,
- Come into direct contact with animals,
- Have diabetes,
- Suffer from obesity or are overweight,
- Wear tight shoes or clothing that chafes the skin,
- Excessively sweat.
A doctor can usually diagnose the ringworm disease after examining the area affected and asking the individual about their symptoms and medical history.
They may collect a small skin scraping and assess it under a microscope or send it to a laboratory to look for fungal characteristics.
If symptoms do not improve within 2 weeks of treatment, the doctor may perform a biopsy (remove a small piece of affected skin) and send it to a lab for analysis.
To treat ringworm, the doctor can prescribe medications as well as recommend lifestyle changes.
Based on the severity of the ringworm infection, the doctor may prescribe different medications.
Jock itch, athlete’s foot, and body ringworm are all typically treated topically using antifungals such as:
Oral medications may be used to treat severe cases.
Ringworm of the scalp or nails may necessitate the use of prescription oral medicines such as griseofulvin, ketoconazole, or terbinafine.
A doctor may also advise to use over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and antifungal creams, including clotrimazole, miconazole, and terbinafine.
Besides prescription and over-the-counter medications, a doctor may advise treating the infection at home by doing the following:
- Disinfecting the surroundings and washing the bedding and clothing on a daily basis
- Drying the skin thoroughly after bathing
- Wearing loose clothing in affected areas
- Treating all the affected regions, as not treating them can result in a recurrence of the infection.
If ringworm occurs in a household, the following strategies may help prevent its spread:
- A veterinarian should be consulted if a pet is the cause of the infection.Everyone must regularly wash their hands with soap.
- Hairbrushes, combs, clothing, bed linen, towels, and footwear should not be shared.
- Hot water and antifungal soap should be used to wash clothes.
- Anyone suffering from ringworm should avoid scratching affected areas, because this
- increases the likelihood of the infection spreading.
- Wearing loose clothing and staying cool may aid in lowering the risk.
- People should avoid walking barefoot in the house.
Ringworm is an unpleasant condition, but antifungal medications can help get rid of the fungus that causes it. The treatment may take some time, but it is critical to stick to your healthcare provider’s treatment regimen for as long as it is recommended. If individuals stop taking their medication too soon, ringworm will return and become more difficult to treat. Ask your physician about how to prevent ringworm from spreading to other areas of your body or to other people.