As soon as the term Ringworm is heard, it causes panic and stress to some people thinking that Ringworm is a type of worm infection. It commonly causes confusion to many because of its name, but actually ringworm is a fungal infection. The fungal infection got its name because of its ring-like appearance. Symptoms of ringworm may vary depending on where the ringworm is located. There are several types of ringworm, each named based on where it is located. However, in general, ringworm can be red, itchy and scaly patches on the skin. This fungal infection is common among children but can still affect people of any age, and can even affect animals like the common house pets. It can easily be spread through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person or animal, or through the use or sharing of infected items such as combs, towels, clothing and other personal items. It can also be contracted by humans through in contact with soil and other warm and moist places like pool areas and locker rooms where the fungi culprits live.
This fungal infection is caused by dermatophytes; this is a group of three types of fungi that commonly causes skin, hair and nail infections known as ringworm. Dermatophytes require keratin in order to grow, and because of that, they are restricted to areas like the skin, hair and nails. This is why they can cause infection to these areas. The naming of the different types of ringworm includes the word “tinea” which means dermatophytoses, then the term for the location of the infection. For instance, tinea corporis is the ringworm of the body, tinea pedis or ringworm of the feet which is also called athlete’s foot, tinea cruris or ringworm of the groin area commonly known as jock itch and others.
Fortunately, ringworm is treatable. Treatment of ringworm will vary, from over-the counter ringworm treatment to prescription medications. Specific treatment will depend on the severity of the infection, the location and the age of the patient. Some types of ringworm are effectively treated with topical antifungal medications and some require stronger topical antifungals or even systemic medications through oral antifungals. Initial treatment involves the use of over-the-counter ringworm treatment which includes antifungal creams, lotions, powders and medicated shampoos. Over-the-counter antifungals may include products containing antifungal drugs like clotrimazole, miconazole, terbinafine and selenium sulfide. These medications are used for about two to four weeks to prevent the recurrence of the fungal infection. However, if over-the-counter medications do not work, when the ringworm does not respond to the drug or for severe and recurrent cases, higher doses of antifungals or prescription medications may be necessary. The above mentioned over-the-counter ringworm treatment eliminate fungi and inhibit their growth.
Clotrimazole and miconazole both belongs to this class of antifungals. They treat a variety of fungal infections including ringworm. These antifungals are effective treatments by preventing the growth of fungi. Imidazoles work by inhibiting the conversion of lanosterol to ergosterol by inhibiting the enzyme responsible for this synthesis called lanosterol demethylase. Through this inhibition, leads to a decrease in ergosterol which is actually a main component of cell membrane. This in turn brings about the disruption of the structure and functions of the cell membrane, inhibiting the growth of the fungus, and apparently, death.
Terbinafine belongs to the allylamine group of antifungal which are also effective antifungal treatments of a variety of fungal infections, including ringworm. Terbinafine also works by preventing the synthesis of ergosterol by inhibiting the enzyme squalene epoxidase. This will also bring about the death of fungal cells due to the depletion of ergosterol.
Selenium sulfide is a compound that has an antifungal property, preventing the growth of fungus on the skin. It is effective in treating a variety of fungal infections, commonly available in shampoos. It is also used as an adjunct therapy in treating ringworm, like tinea capitis or ringworm of the scalp. It helps reduce the risk of spreading the fungal infection by reducing spores that are shed.
Aside from using over-the-counter ringworm treatments or prescription medications, these steps may also be helpful in treating the fungal infection:
- Keeping the skin clean and dry regularly; remember that fungus thrive in warm and moist areas
- Do not use clothing that will rub against the infected area; it is best to use loose clothing
- Wash sheets and nightwear everyday while one is infected with ringworm
- Avoid scratching the infected area to prevent secondary infections