Ringworm, also called Tinea, is a contagious skin infection caused by a fungus which can affect the scalp, body, feet and nails. The fungus that causes ringworm lives in humans and animals. The name ringworm comes from the characteristic ring that appears on the infected person's skin. It affects people of all ages. It may begin in late childhood or young adulthood and usually continues throughout life.
Ringworm can be caused by direct or indirect contact with an infected person or pets. It can be indirectly caused by sharing objects such as hats, combs, and brushes of an infected person. In rare cases, it can be spread by contact with soil.
Signs and Symptoms
Ringworm usually begins as a small, red, itchy, scaly patch and over time it appears like a ring with raised bumpy and scaly borders (center is often clear). The affected areas often crack and are sometimes painful. When it affects the feet, it is known as athlete's foot and the rash may appear red with scaly patches but may not look like a ring. When ringworm affects the scalp, it may cause hair to fall off or break. When it affects nails, the nails may become thick, yellowish and brittle.
Dermatologists diagnose Ringworm by physical observation as well as other tests. Wood's lamp uses a blue light where the infected skin appears fluorescent. Biopsy is a confirmatory test where a piece of infected skin is observed under the microscope.
Psoriasis can usually be controlled, but not cured. Ringworm infection can be treated both topically and systemically.
Topical treatment: many antifungal creams, powders or lotions can clear the condition in about two weeks. However, ringworm of the scalp or nails requires oral antifungal medication. Your dermatologist may prescribe medicines containing miconazole or clotrimazole and these have proven effective for ring worm infection.
Systemic treatment: Fungal infections such as scalp ringworm that do not respond well to external medications, respond to oral medications containing ketoconazole.
Prevention may be difficult because it is contagious and the fungus causing infection is very common. Practicing the healthy steps mentioned below may prevent you from becoming infected.
- Avoid sharing hats, clothes, combs, brushes or other personal items of an infected person.
- Keep your skin clean and dry.
- Avoid tight fitting clothes.
- Wear shoes or flip-flops in gyms and pools and other public areas.
- Avoid infected pets or pets with bald spots.