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About Ringworm

What is ringworm?

Ringworm is a fungal skin infection that can affect the top layer of the skin, scalp or nails. Despite the name, ringworm has nothing to do with actual worms. Ringworm is caused by a fungus that eats keratin, which is a protein found in the skin, hair and nails. There are 5 main types of ringworm:

  • 1. General body ringworm
  • 2. Scalp ringworm - this occurs mostly in younger children
  • 3. Groin infections (tinea cruris) - more commonly known as “jock itch”
  • 4. Tinea pedis - athlete’s foot
  • 5. Tinea unguium - infection of the nail bed

What are the symptoms of ringworm?

General body ringworm typically present as a rash that is ring-like in appearance. The rings are slightly raised and are usually redder around the outside of the ring than inside it. Ringworm rashes are itchy.

Scalp ringworm symptoms include small patches of scaly skin on the scalp which may be tender and inflamed, as well as hair on or near the patches breaking away. It is possible that scalp ringworm may appear as large inflamed sores that ooze pus on the scalp.

Ringworm on the nail bed (tinea unguium) symptoms include scaling under the nail, white or yellow streaks on the nail, crumbling corner or tip of the nail, flaking white areas on the nail’s surface, loss of the nail, or the appearance of yellow spots at the base of the nail.

Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) symptoms include itching, stinging and burning between the toes or on the soles. Symptoms can also include cracking and peeling of the skin, itchy blisters, dry or raw skin, and discolored, thick and crumbly toenails.

What causes ringworm?

Ringworm is caused by a type of fungus that eats the keratin in skin, hair and nails. Ringworm can be spread from human to human, from animal to human or from object to human.

How do you treat ringworm?

There are a number of ways to treat ringworm. Oral medications are a clinically proven way of treating ringworm. You can take terbinafine to treat a ringworm infection.

Is there anything you can do to try to avoid ringworm?

There are a few steps you can take to try to prevent getting ringworm. These include:

  • washing your hands regularly
  • Wear light, loose clothing (especially in warm weather)
  • Try to avoid excessive sweating
  • Do not share clothes, bed linens, towels, footwear, combs or hairbrushes

Frequently Asked Questions

What does ringworm look like?

Body ringworm is typically a ring-shaped rash that is red and raised. The inside of the ring will be less red than the perimeter.

Is ringworm contagious?

Yes, ringworm can be spread from person to person, animal to person, or object to person.

Is the ringworm treatment for humans different than the treatment for animals?

Yes. The ringworm treatment for humans is one course of terbinafine tablets while the ringworm treatment for animals is typically a medicated shampoo. In some cases animals can be treated with oral medication, but that is atypical.

Is ringworm itchy?

Yes, ringworm, in all five of its forms, is typically itchy.

How do you catch ringworm?

Ringworm can be spread from person to person, animal to person, or object to person.