Ringworm has nothing to do with actual worms which is unlike the understanding of many people about ringworm causes.  Ringworms are fungal infections. But still there is a link to worms and therefore the name ringworm. Because it appears as a round circle or ring on the skin of the patient it looks like actual worms.

So, what is ringworm?

Ringworm is in fact a fungal infection. It is usually recognisable for the red circular shaped rash that appears on the skin’s surface where the infection is present. It is a highly infectious condition which means that care must be taken in order to prevent or reduce the risk of spreading from person to person. Ringworm lives and breads on the skin’s surface and can stay live on the surface of clothing and any other materials. Treatment should be used as soon as possible upon diagnosis.

Ringwom affected arm
Ringwom affected arm

The reason for its name ringwom is due to how it looks like. It appears as a round circle or ring on the skin of the patient.

Ringworm definitions and symptoms

Very closely related to Ringworm is a condition known as Jock Itch where there is a fungal infection in the groin.

A common name for ringworm is tinea. Depending upon whereabouts on your body the ringworm appears will determine it’s precise name, for example if the ringworm appears on the head or scalp, it’s known as tinea capitis, if it is on the body, then it is known as tinea corporis and if the ringworm is found on the feet, then it is known as tinea pedis or more commonly athletes foot.

Ringworm is mostly found in children; however, it can be caught by anybody of any age.

The ringworm looks like a round ring shaped patch on the skin which will be red and silvery with scales. It can also be quite itchy. The ring spreads outwards and eventually the centre will heal and look like normal skin, leaving a red ring.

Scalp and head ringworm infections can cause baldness at the point where the ringworm is.

What causes Ringworm?

The fungal spores which cause ringworm are around all of us everyday. They are found in the soil, on other people and also on a variety of animals. Usually, they enter through a break in the skin where they are then able to infect the patient.

The environment where ringworm thrives best is in warm damp areas, so in places where you sweat a lot are absolutely perfect for the fungal spores to thrive.

There are a number of ways that ringworm can infect you. It can be passed to you from other people or animals very easily due to its high contagious level. Any high levels of contact from either pets or from working livestock on farms can pass on ringworm to people very easily. When it comes to person to person contamination, it usually happens when people share combs, or unwashed clothes. Unwashed surfaces in swimming pools are also very good places to catch ringworm.

Humans often times will contract ringworm from their pet animals, such as cats and dogs. These animals are at greater risk because of their lifestyles and that they are often carriers of ringworm. Just like these animals are at risk it is also known that people that are involved in contact sports such as wrestling, or even hockey, football, and rugby. Basically any instant where there is increased skin contact with a foreign body raises the odds of the ringworm transmission.

Often times we overlook the numer of species in this fungi family that cause ringworm. Different fungi will attack different parts of the body. Common one's that I'm sure we have heard on a day-to-day basis are: jock itch which has it's affects the groin area, and athlete's foot which affects the feet. There are several others, but those to are definitely to of the most known.

Diagnosing ringworm

Ringworm is very easy to diagnose. Usually, the characteristics of ringworm i.e. the round red scaly ring are enough just on their own. However, doctors could also take a scraping off the affected skin or in the case of head or scalp ringworm a hair off the patient and then look at it under a microscope where confirmation of the diagnosis can be carried out.

Ringworm, once in full force, is easily to spot as it leaves one, and often times more than one, red itchy patches on the skin that are raised and have defined edges. These patches can often times be lighter in the center, which makes the infection take on the appearance of a ring. A good doctors can usually diagnose ringworm at first sight. If this is not possible they take a skin scraping. Examination of the scraping under a microscope will usually be able to provide a correct diagnosis.

Treatment options for Ringworm infection

Treatment of ringworm is relatively simple and the most common remedy is that of an anti fungal ointment or cream. Upon diagnosis it is important to contain the virus and limit any shared use of household items. Fabrics should be washed in hot water and bleach used on surfaces in order to kill of the fungi causing the ringworm. The affected area of the skin should be covered to prevent further spreading and also prevent the patient from scratching, given that one of the symptoms is extreme itchiness.  Treatment should be continued even after the rash disappears as ringworm has an incubation period of around ten days. This means that despite one area healing up another area may be about to erupt due to the spread of the infection.

Most treatments can be bought over the counter at a chemist but in cases where t ringworm has spread to other parts of the bodies you may need to be prescribed a stronger oral medication. There are also natural remedies available which can also be quite effective in the treatment of ringworm. These consist of herbal and plant based remedies. Raw papaya, mustard seeds, cassia leaves and butea seeds are said to produce positive results in the treatment of ringworm.

Depending upon whether you are suffering from head or scalp ringworm or whether you’re suffering from ringworm on your skin, will determine what type of treatment you will receive.

If you can catch the condition early enough, then you should be able to purchase an anti fungal cream from your pharmacist which should cure your skin ringworm or in the case of head/scalp ringworm, an oral anti fungal medication.

However, if the cream or oral medication doesn’t appear to be eradicating the ringworm, then a trip to your doctor will be required. He will then probably prescribe a slightly different anti fungal medicine with different active ingredients.

If the ringworm is very inflamed and/or irritated, then the doctor may also prescribe a topical corticosteroid in order to soothe these symptoms. This is commonly the case when an area of eczema is infected by ringworm.

For all patients who are suffering from ringworm, it is very important to have a strict routine in order to deal with it. That includes keeping the affected area dry and clean.

  • Don’t share towels and wash bedding and night clothes regularly (ideally once a day).
  • Wash the affected area gently but thoroughly every day
  • Change your socks and underwear daily
  • Avoid scratching and touching the irritated area

It is possible that the ringworm could move from one affected area to the other. Also the broken skin caused by scratching the ringworm, could lead to other infections as the skin is broken.

Ringworm is a very common contagious condition caused by a fungus and not by worms. With the correct treatment and care, in the vast majority of cases, will just be uncomfortable and inconvenient. However, it is important to remember that if you are in any doubt, then visit your doctor.