Compare TOP
health insurance quotes

Get a free quote and start saving now!

Ringworm: The Basics

by Julia McCartney on May 25, 2012

When people hear the term “ringworm,” they often assume that it refers to an infection that involves microscopic worms. That’s not the case. The name for this condition comes from the fact that it often produces rashes with red, raised edges and unaffected centers. The result looks a lot like a ring. However, the telltale ring doesn’t always happen with this infection. In many cases, it just looks like a dry, red rash. One thing’s for sure: It’s very common. While small children are the most susceptible, it can happen to anyone. It can even happen to the family pet. Learn more about ringworm below.

What Causes Ringworm?

If you have ringworm, it’s not because a bunch of worms have invaded your body. Instead, it means that a specific fungus has grown and multiplied in the outermost layer of your skin or on your hair. This fungus is called tinea, and it thrives in moist, warm areas. As a result, ringworm is more likely to occur to people who sweat a lot. The fungus can also be introduced through small cuts and scratches.

Where are You Likely to Encounter the Tinea Fungus?

There aren’t specific areas in the world where the tinea fungus is particular prevalent. As mentioned above, it prefers warm, moist places. Not surprisingly, then, it is often picked up in locker rooms and gyms. People often return home from public swimming pools with the fungus as well.

Types of Ringworm

Ringworm is a generic term for an infection that is caused by an overabundance of the tinea fungus. One of the most well-known types of ringworm is tinea cruris, which is commonly known as jock itch. It occurs on the groin, which is a part of the body that tends to be moister and warmer than other areas. Tinea corporis refers to ringworm that is present on the body, and tinea pedis refers to ringworm that develops on the feet. It should also be noted that athlete’s foot, which is a fungal infection, sometimes spreads and turns into ringworm as well.

When ringworm occurs where hair grows, the condition can be a lot more serious. Tinea barbae refers to ringworm that grows on the beard while tinea capitis refers to ringworm that occurs on the scalp. In these instances, ringworm causes bald patches. Pets who have bald patches are often suffering from ringworm. Humans can pick the fungus up from their furry friends by petting them, but it’s not especially common.

The Main Symptoms of Ringworm

After coming into contact with the fungus that causes ringworm, the infection may not develop for one to two weeks. The main symptom is a scaly, itchy, red rash. Scaly patches often develop on the affected areas. In some cases, they may begin to ooze or form blisters. As mentioned above, these rashes sometimes take on clearly defined edges that are red on the outside. When normal skin is in the middle, the infection can look just like a ring. When ringworm happens on the nails, they may crumble, become noticeably thicker or become discolored. On the scalp and on other places where hair grows, bald spots may develop.

When to Seek Medical Help

Mild forms of ringworm can usually be handled with at-home care. There are a few exceptions. If it develops on the scalp or on a beard, medical attention is warranted. Otherwise, a significant number of bald patches may occur. If the condition persists after four weeks of self care, you should also see a doctor. Medical assistance is also warranted if the rash begins to spread to other parts of the body after treatment has begun.

Treating Ringworm

In most cases, it’s possible to treat ringworm yourself. Once treatment begins, it typically takes about four weeks for the infection to go away. The skin should be kept dry and clean at all times. Bedclothes and sheets should be changed daily. An antifungal or drying powder should be used. Antifungal creams and lotions are also available. Look for medications that contain miconazole or clotrimazole. In more severe cases, as with ringworm that affects the scalp or the beard, antifungal pills may be needed. Antibiotics are sometimes prescribed to handle problems that have developed due to persistent scratching.

Preventing Ringworm

Nobody wants to come down with ringworm. There are a few common-sense ways to avoid it. Do your best to keep your feet clean and dry at all times. Wear fresh, clean socks every day. Shampoo your hair on a regular basis. If you go to the gym or to a public pool, always wear sandals at all times.

Ringworm is often spread between people who share personal items. Don’t share things like towels with other people. Each person should have his or her own towel. Don’t share brushes or combs with others. The same thing goes for clothes. As for pets, it is exceedingly rare to catch ringworm from a cat or dog. However, you should never touch a pet that has bald patches, which are a common sign of ringworm in pets.

The Bottom Line on Ringworm

As unsavory as its name may be, ringworm is actually not a huge deal. It’s not fun to have, but there are worse infections to get. At any rate, it’s fairly easy to avoid the condition entirely. Just use common sense when visiting public pools, locker rooms and gyms. Keep your feet and your body as dry and clean as possible. Wear fresh, clean socks and underwear every day. If you do develop the symptoms of ringworm, get over-the-counter antifungal treatments as quickly as possible. If it occurs on your scalp or in your beard, or if it persists, keeps recurring or spreads, seek medical assistance.

No related posts.

Share This...

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: