At one point, people believed ringworm (tinea corporis or capitis) was caused by a worm, hence the name. In actuality, ringworm is a skin infection caused by different types of fungi. Even though you can’t see them, the body is host to hundreds of microorganisms. They are generally not harmful, and some even help the body function properly. If the right conditions present themselves, however, bad bacterium or fungi can grow out of control and cause an infection.
Tinea is highly contagious, and you can contract the infection through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person or by handling objects he or she has used with like combs or towels. Ringworm likes to grow in warm damp places, so you can also become infected via contact with surfaces where it commonly grows like shower floors.
Symptoms of Ringworm: What it Looks Like?
Ringworm can occur on any part of the body, and the symptoms will vary depending on where the infection develops. Trademark symptoms usually appear between 4 and 14 days after the skin comes in contact with the fungal spores that cause ringworm. The definitive sign of ringworm is a skin rash that is red or silvery (gray) and inflamed. A lot of times this rash will be in the shape of a circle or ring-like, but not always. In rare cases, it may be completely absent. The rash may be slightly raised and scaly around the edges or it may be flat. Typically, the rash will itch and can develop in multiple places at the same time. Feet: Tinea that occurs on the feet is called athlete’s foot. This type of ringworm sometimes infect the hands, palms, and fingers and cause similar symptoms. The primary symptom of this type of ringworm infection is flaking, cracking, or peeling skin between the toes or fingers. The skin may be red and itchy, and blisters may develop that ooze or crust. The sole and heel may also be affected. If the infection spreads to the fingernails or toenails, they may thicken, discolor, or crumble, often between the little toe and the one next to it.
Genital and Groin Area: Another place where people get ringworm is the genital and groin area, which is commonly known as jock itch. Although it mostly affects adolescent boys and men, women can get this form of ringworm too. Symptoms include severe itching, red scaly patches that may blister and ooze, and abnormally light or dark skin. The rash can spread outward to the inner thighs, buttocks, and anus. Exercising and wearing tight fitting clothes can cause ringworm to worsen.
Scalp & Beard: Ringworm can infect the scalp and beard. If it occurs in the scalp, dry brittle hair or bald spots may appear that are often filled with small black dots where hair used to be. If the infection spreads the crusted over bald spots can grow in size and more than one such spots might develop. As the fungi borrows into the hair shaft and colonizes the hair follicle, it eats through the hair, which leads to hair breaking off. Red or swollen scaly skin that itches may appear as well as kerions (pus-filled sores). Low-grade fever may accompany the infection in the scalp. Infections in the beard may produce pimples or pustules which may crust over. Nails: Nail discoloration is common. Usually appearance of tiny spots that may be white, black, yellow or green is accompanied with thickening of the nail. The skin and tissues surrounding the nail might become swollen and irritated. Long term infection can cause the nail to get distorted, crumbly and start to fall off.
Treating Ringworm Symptoms
This is a common infection that affects about 20% of the population and is easy to diagnose. Although it is very contagious, it is also easily treatable at home using over-the-counter medications that don’t require prescription.
Don’t scratch the affected skin as you can spread the infection to other healthy body areas. Your rash may clear up soon after you start treatment but it can take up to four weeks for the infection to completely go away. So it is important to use the medication for as long as your doctor or the manufacturer says to use it, even if the symptoms like hair loss or scaly rashes dissipate. This will help keep the infection from coming back.
Re-infection is often caused by incomplete treatment. Although uncommon but if the infection keeps coming back your doctor may prescribe strong anti fungal pills that will kill the fungus. Left untreated skin could blister, and the resulting cracks could become infected with bacteria. Antibiotics would be needed if this happens.
Children undergoing treatment for ringworm don’t need to skip school or day care. Read our reviews of natural ringworm treatments for effective remedies that clear the infection with little to no side effects on the homepage.