Ringworm is a fungal infection affecting the skin.
Ringworm can be caused by over 40 different types of fungi, some of which are Microsporum, Trichophyton, and Epidermophyton. Ringworm affecting any part of the body is called Tinea corporis. Ringworm of the web spaces of the foot is called athlete's foot (Tinea pedis), those of the groin is called jock itch (Tinea cruris), and those of the scalp is called Tinea capitis.
- Skin to skin contact with infected human skin or animals
- Ringworm can spread by sharing towels and clothes with the infected person
- Contact with contaminated objects or soil
What is ringworm?
Ringworm is a fungal infection affecting the skin. It may occur anywhere, but the skin folds and sweaty areas are more commonly affected. It is characterized by a red, circular rash with central clearing and itching that can be intense. The condition is called ringworm because of the ring-like appearance of the rash. The infection is usually limited to the skin. Rarely, the deeper layers of the skin may be affected causing complications. Most cases of ringworm resolve with appropriate treatment in about two weeks. Treatment in individuals with a compromised immune system due to conditions such as human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) and diabetes may be difficult.
Risk factors for ringworm infection
The following factors can increase the risk of ringworm infection:
- Hot and humid climate
- Contact with an infected person, animals, objects, soil, or other surfaces
- Use of public gyms and public showers and playing contact sports
- Sharing clothing, towels, or bedding with an infected person
- Wearing tight or nonbreathable clothing
- Wearing wet, damp, or sweat-drenched clothes for a long time
- Having a weak immune system
What are the signs and symptoms of ringworm?
Signs and symptoms of ringworm may include:
- A scaly ring-shaped, red rash with red raised bumps and central clearing usually occurring over the buttocks, trunk, legs, and arms
- Rash may increase in size and can be multiple in number
- Itching over the rash
- Rash may also appear as a round, flat patch of itchy skin
How is ringworm treated?
Ringworm infections usually heal in about two weeks with conservative treatments. Treatment options include:
- Over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal creams, ointment, or lotions such as clotrimazole and antifungal powders can be applied to the affected area three times a day.
- Prescription-strength antifungal lotions, creams, or ointments may be advised by the doctor if OTC products don’t help.
- Antifungal creams and ointments containing anti-inflammatory medication such as steroids may be prescribed to reduce inflammations and itching.
- Antifungal pills may be prescribed for severe cases, resistant to other forms of treatment.
- Antihistamine pills may be advised to help reduce itching.
- Maintaining hygiene by keeping the affected area clean is important. The affected area can be cleaned using a simple over the counter antiseptic soap and water. The area should be dried because moisture can worsen the condition by promoting fungal growth. Cleansing with soap and water should be done before applying other treatments.
How to prevent ringworm?
Preventing ringworm is difficult because it is highly contagious and spreads through direct contact unknowingly. The following steps can help reduce the risk of ringworm infections:
- Maintain overall hygiene by regular washing of hands with an antiseptic handwash or using a sanitizer and showering after playing sports, using the pool, or gym
- Stay cool and dry and avoiding excessive sweating
- Wear light breathable clothing
- Avoid wearing wet, damp, or sweaty clothes and shoes for a long period of time
- Wear washed and well-dried clothes and socks every time
- Wear flip flops or any footwear in public showers and public spaces such as the beach
- Maintain hygiene of pets by appropriate grooming methods
- Avoid touching animals that may be infected
- Avoid sharing of personal items such as clothing, towels, hairbrushes, sports gear, utensils, or other personal items