Ringworm is a type of fungal skin infection that doesn’t cause disease below the surface of the skin. It’s called “ringworm” because it can cause a circular rash (shaped like a ring) that is usually red and itchy. It actually has nothing to do with worms. The infection can occur just about anywhere on the body. However, ringworm rash can be of several types depending on which part of the body it affects. Ringworm prevention is difficult because the fungus causing ringworm is common and contagious. However, there are a number of things that you can do to reduce your risk of infection or to prevent the further spread of a ringworm infection if you’re already suffering from one.
Ringworm is a common skin disorder known medically as “tinea” or “dermatophytosis” caused by a fungus. It is more common in unsanitary and crowded places. That’s because the fungus can live on both skin and surfaces like shower floors. It attacks dead tissues in places like the hair, nails and leftover dandruff. This grows into red rashes with a characteristic ring shape.
Tinea infection can affect any part of the body. It can be of the scalp, arms, legs, face and trunk. However, tinea infections of the feet, nails and genital area are not often called ringworm. This is because the red patches may not look like rings. But it most often occurs in moist areas of the body and around hair.
The fungus can be spread from person to person. The various fungi that cause ringworm live in warm, moist areas such as locker rooms, public restrooms, showers, public pools and similar areas. You can also get the fungus through sharing clothes, sheets and towels. Even other mammals, including cats and dogs, can easily spread it to humans.
What Are The Types Of Ringworm Infection?
There are several types and they tend to specialize. Keep in mind that the various types don’t refer to specific fungal species. Because more than one species of fungus can cause many of the different forms of ringworm. Instead, the names of different types refer to where they occur on the body. Different ringworm fungi affects different body parts such as:
- the face
- the scalp
- the hands
- the beard
- the groin
- the foot, and
- the nails.
Ringworm Infection Of The Body (Tinea Corporis)
Tinea corporis refers to ringworm of the trunk, legs, or arms. Different fungi cause tinea corporis in different parts of the world. It’s common for this infection to originate in the feet or nails, then spread to other body parts. It may also spread to the scalp and groin.
When fungus affects the skin of the body, it often produces the round spots of classic ringworm. A red ring of scaly skin forms and grows outward as the infection spreads. Though children are especially susceptible, it can affect adults as well.
One of the most distinctive sign is the appearance of an itchy, red, circular rash in the shape of a ring. This rash may resemble a target or a bullseye, and it usually has raised edges. Finding one of these is a helpful way to distinguish this rash from other even more common rashes such as eczema.
Ringworm Infection Of The Nails (Tinea Unguium)
Tinea unguium is usually occurs either in the fingernails or toenails, toenails are much more likely to contract this disease. Those especially prone to ringworm of the nails include men, older adults, diabetics or anyone with a compromised immune system. Symptoms include nails which can be discolored which can be either yellow, brown or otherwise. They can also be very hard, thick, soft or brittle.
Ringworm Infection Of The Scalp (Tinea Capitis)
Tinea capitis is most common in children between the ages of 3 and 7, and is less often found in adults. It may start as a small sore that looks like a pimple before becoming patchy, flaky, or scaly. The hair itself can be infected by various ringworm fungi. This spread from cattle, horses, pigs, dogs, and cats.
Bad cases of ringworm of the scalp can also develop into a kerion. A kerion is a thick, pus-filled area on the scalp. It can also cause a fever. This can be caused by an overly active response of the immune system or an allergic reaction to the fungus. It may cause a rash elsewhere on the body and tender lymph nodes in the neck.
Some of the symptoms include:
- dry scaling similar to dandruff that is accompanied with hair loss.
- black dots of hair broken off at the scalp, with a scaly surface.
- swollen lymph glands on the neck.
- a smooth spot where the hair has fallen off, and
- an intensely inflamed mass similar to an abscess.
Ringworm Infection Of The Groin (Tinea Cruris or Jock Itch)
Another itchy problem is tinea cruris, more commonly known as jock itch. Most common among adult men, tinea cruris causes a scaly, reddish-brown rash with raised borders to form down the inner thighs. Sometimes ring-like rashes form on the buttocks as well. This infection is unlikely to form on the penis or vulva or around the anus.
Although jock itch is common, it is sometimes confused with other common conditions, such as yeast infection and psoriasis.
Athlete’s Foot (Tinea Pedis)
This problem mostly affects teenage boys and men. It usually doesn’t affect children before puberty. This common type occurs on the feet and between the toes. It may be cause by sweating, not drying the feet after swimming or bathing, wearing tight socks and shoes, and warm weather.
Symptoms may include:
- Whitening of the skin between the toes
- Scaling of the feet
- Itchy rash on the feet
- Blisters on the feet
Barber’s Itch (Tinea Barbae)
Like certain forms of ringworm of the scalp, tinea barbae infects the hair itself on a man’s face. Beards and moustaches make fertile feeding grounds for the fungi responsible for barber’s itch. This infection can appear on the face or neck.
It is commonly spread by barbers with unsanitary practices. It is also common among farmers nowadays due to the fungus responsible for the condition living in cattle and horses.
Common symptoms include:
- swelling and marked crusting,
- red, lumpy areas around the face,
- hairs that are easily pulled out, and
- facial hair that breaks off.
Effective Ringworm Infection Prevention Measures
It’s not easy to prevent it completely. However, by taking a few simple steps, your risk of developing ringworm will be less.
Follow Proper Hygiene Measures
- Clip nails and toenails short and keep them clean.
- Keep feet clean and dry.
- Completely dry yourself well after showers and baths.
- Shower and shampoo carefully well everyday.
- Shower immediately after playing contact sports.
- Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water regularly to avoid the spread of infection.
- Wash athletic clothing, equipment, and common surfaces in schools, gyms, locker rooms, and day care centers often with a solution of chlorine bleach and warm water.
Slip On Sandals And Slippers
- To keep ringworm off your feet, don’t walk around barefoot in locker rooms, public pools, or public showers.
- Instead, put on a pair of sandals or slippers to give your skin a barrier of protection.
Avoid Unnecessary Moisture
- Wear loose-fitting clothing made of natural fibers to avoid trapping moisture.
- Change your socks and underwear at least once a day to ward off athlete’s foot and jock itch.
- Change out of thick or wet clothing if you’re in warm, humid surroundings.
- Avoid using other people’s clothing, towels or hairbrushes.
- Also do not let others use your personal items if you or someone close to you is suffering from a ringworm infection.
Check Pets Regularly
- If your pets have patches of missing hair, take them to the vet. That’s one sign of a ringworm fungal infection.
- Also keep an eye out for a lesion with a scaly center that looks red and irritated around the edges.
- Sometimes pets will show circular patches of missing hair, and at other times they will display crusty scales.
- Educate yourself on the risk factors for ringworm, and understand what signs to watch out for in a potential infection.
Fungal diseases like ringworm are more difficult to treat than bacterial infection. That’s because fungus have more complicated cells which are more similar to our own. This makes it difficult to develop antifungal drugs that will kill the fungus, but do no harm to humans.
As a result, long-term topical and oral treatments such as clotrimazole, miconazole and ketonazole are necessary. Infection is likely to occur after it has disappeared.