Ringworm is wrongly perceived as a type of worm but in fact it is not. Ringworm is a type of infection that is caused by a fungus. It is a fungal infection affecting the upper layer of the skin which is characterized by symptoms like a red circular rash where the skin in the middle is clearer. For some instances it itches, and sometimes it does not. The fungal infection got the name Ringworm because of how it looks.
Ringworm in general is also called tinea pedis which literally means ringworm of the body. It is closely related to tinea pedis or Athlete’s foot, tinea cruris or the Jock itch, and tinea capitis which is the ringworm of the scalp. Jock itch is an example of ringworm of the skin in the groin area which can also spread to the inner thighs and buttocks area. This may occur due to the transfer of the Athlete’s foot fungus to the groin area. This form of ringworm commonly affects men than women.
What Causes Ringworm and is it Contagious?
Worm does not cause Ringworm. This type of infection is caused by a fungus or fungi. The fungi that cause ringworm live and spread on the topmost layer of the skin and on hairs. Fungi thrive in warm and moist environments such as in swimming pool areas, in locker rooms and of course in those skin folds.
Unfortunately, Ringworm is contagious. It can spread via skin contact with other persons or even animals that have this fungal infection. Not only can it spread via skin transfer, but also through the sharing of inanimate objects like clothes, towels and others. In rare cases, ringworm can also be spread from exposure to infected soil.
Can Ringworm be prevented?
Fortunately, ringworm can be prevented or avoided. To avoid getting contaminated with the fungal infection, it is best to not share personal belongings and to avoid skin contact with persons who have this fungal infection. If exposure to the fungal infection is suspected, washing with anti-fungal soap is recommended. It is also advised to wear shoes or slippers in moist areas especially public areas to prevent fungal contamination. After any activity that requires skin to skin contact, bathing or showering is also advised. It is also best to keep skin clean and dry at all times, to wear loose fitting and clean clothing.
To prevent the spread of current fungal infection, for example if one has an Athlete’s foot, it is advised that the socks be worn before wearing the underwear to avoid transfer of the fungus from feet to groin. If the pet is suspected of having ringworm, the pet must be brought to the vet for proper treatment.
If any member of the family has ringworm, treatment must be done as soon as possible to prevent possible spreading of the fungal infection among family members.
What are the risks of having Ringworm?
People belonging to the following are at higher risk of getting Ringworm:
- Child aged 15 years and below
- Have weak immune system
- Have close contact with an infected person, animal or has shared objects like clothing, towels, bed sheets with an infected person.
- Live in a humid, damp or even crowded environment
- Involved in activities that involve skin to skin contact
- Wearing tight clothing
What are the symptoms of Ringworm?
This type of fungal infection usually manifests as a flat and scaly part of the skin which is reddish and itchy. The skin then forms a slightly raised border that forms a circular or ring pattern. However, at times it is just a plain red and itchy rash. The ring has an irregular or wavy pattern much like worm. Hence it is called ringworm. Inside the ring is a clear, scaly or filled with red bumps. In some people, a number of rings will grow and may even overlap.
Ringworm of the hand is similar in appearance with athlete’s foot. The skin on the palm area will become dry, thick and scaly and the skin between the fingers will be moist and may even have open sores.
How is Ringworm diagnosed?
If your itchy rash forms a ring pattern, then it will be easily diagnosed as ringworm by its mere appearance. The doctor may also scrape some skin from the rash and examine it under a microscope to check and confirm if ringworm fungi are present.
What are the treatment options for Ringworm?
Usually, over-the-counter medications like antifungal creams such as terbinafine or clotrimazole, can be applied to treat the ringworm infection. Regular use up to the length of duration advised by the doctor must strictly be followed to avoid the recurrence of the fungal infection. However, if over-the-counter creams do not work, the doctor may prescribe oral medications that will help eliminate the fungi.
In cases where the ringworm is not treated, the infected skin could worsen, become blistered and be infected with bacteria. Once bacterial infection is present, antibiotics will be necessary to treat it.