What is Ringworm?
Ringworm, despite its name is not a worm and has nothing to do with worms. It is in fact a fungal infection. The reason for its name is due to what it looks like. That is, it appears as a round circle or ring on the skin of the patient.
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.
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.
What is the Treatment of Ringworm?
Depending upon whether or not you’re 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 cleanDon’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.