The term Ringworm refers to skin infection caused by fungus. The infection causes a ring like rash on the skin which is red in color. The condition is medically known as ‘Tinea’. The name is derived from a type of fungus that causes this disease. Ringworm affects people of all age groups; however it is more common in children. The condition is not very serious and is usually treated by normal ointments. This skin infection is not just restricted to human beings but also affect animals like cats and dogs.
What Causes Ringworm?
The cause of Ringworm is a fungi called as dermatophytes. It is not caused by a worm (like the name suggests). Different type of bacteria and fungi live on the skin surface. Some out of them are useful and others can be infectious. Ringworm occurs when a fungus ‘Tinea’ grows and multiplies on the skin surface and hair. Warm and moist areas are best places for them proliferate. This makes them occur more commonly in skin folds like in the groin region and between the toes.
The disease being highly contagious spreads from person to person by contact with infected skin areas, or sharing personal care items. The fungi pores can spread in different ways, but mainly in form of:-
- Human to human contact: Anthropophilic
- Animal to human contact: Zoophilic
- Human to soil contact: Geophilic
Risk Factors Associated With Ringworm
It is possible to get ringworm infection through several mediums. As discussed above, the highest risk factor that involves you getting this infection is through physical contact with already infected human being or animal. Contact with any contaminated surface can also lead to ringworm infection. People who are more likely to get affected by this skin infection include:
- People suffering from medical conditions like HIV or Aids that have weakened immune system.
- People undergoing medical treatment like chemotherapy who have weakened immune system.
- People having a medical history of fungal infections.
SYMPTOMS OF RINGWORM
- Red, itchy and scaly patch that often makes a pattern in the shape of a ring.
- In serious cases, red rashes may form blisters and ooze liquid out.
- The patches have well defined boundaries.
Types of Ringworms
This condition is not restricted to specific area on the body. It can affect any body part from head to toe which gives rise to different types of ringworm like:
- Tinea Corporis: It is known as ringworm of body in which fungus affects the skin of the body. This infection produces a ring like red rash on the skin that makes skin irritated and itchy. In severe cases the fungal infection can spread by merging different rings or patches. The affected area may become even more red and elevated.
- Tinea Cruris: It is also known as Jock itch and affects groin area. The foremost symptom is the formation of reddish-brown sores in the groin region (not necessarily ring shaped). The sores may spread down to thighs but usually not towards genitals. In some cases it is often misdiagnosed as chafing rash that results from both thighs rubbing against each other.
- Tinea Capitis: It is ringworm of scalp commonly present in children. The symptoms include small patches of scaly skin on the scalp, pus filled sores, and hair loss from the infected area. In severe conditions the pus filled sores can enlarge and form inflamed blister. This causes lymph nodes to swell accompanied with high fever.
- Tinea Manus: A type of ringworm affecting hands especially fingers, palms and spaces between the fingers. It generally causes fingers to swell and pain. The symptoms include cracked skin, blisters and burning sensation around the fingers.
- Tinea Pedis: Commonly known as athlete’s foot that affects toes and sole. It leads to dry, itchy and flaky rash in the spaces between your toes. In more serious cases it may give rise to blisters, cracked skin and swelling in the affected parts. It is usually accompanied with Tinea Manus.
- Tinea Barbae: It is the ring worm of beard and is basically a fungal infection of hair. The symptoms include reddish-brown patches with strong itching and inflammation of hair follicles.
Generally, it is very easy to diagnose ringworm from its location and appearance. For microscopic examinations certain confirmatory tests are involved.
- Potassium hydroxide (KOH) test: In this test the lesion is scrapped off and the scrapings are placed in a solution of KOH. The solution is then examined under the microscope to confirm the presence of fungus.
As it is a fungal disease, it can be treated using antifungal ointments and tablets. Always seek medical help and rely less on home remedies as they are seldom reliable. It can only be treated through medicines, either by ointment for external application or oral medications.
- External ointments: The most common treatment given out when any part of the body is affected by fungus. There are many anti-fungal creams that clear skin within two weeks of regular use. Some of the common ointments prescribed by doctors include Naftifine, Clotrimazole, Terbinafine and Miconazole. It is usually necessary to keep using these ointments for at least two weeks.
- Oral Medications: There are certain ringworm infections that don’t respond well to external medications. This generally happens when the severity of the disease has increased to dangerous levels. Under such conditions physicians prescribe oral medications that should be taken for four weeks without skipping any doses. Topical medicines may also be prescribed along with them to heal the infection faster.
- Antifungal Shampoo: Such shampoos may not completely cure scalp ringworm but can definitely prevent it from spreading. This may also speed up the recovery process if used along with the prescribed medications.
The antifungal medicine prescribed by the physician generally depends upon the type of fungal infection. There mainly two main types of antifungal tablets:
Doctors generally do not prescribe Griseofulvin to pregnant women because it may cause birth defects in newborns. Feeding women also shouldn’t take this medicine.
PREVENTION OF RINGWORM
Conventional methods of preventing ringworm are to minimize the conditions that cause them, like accumulation of sweat and moisture. Additional preventive measures that should be followed are:
- Keeping all the body parts clean and dry.
- Avoid sharing personal items like combs, hairbrushes, towels and linen.
- Avoid touching animals with bald spots. Also keep monitoring your pet’s health.
- Keep your hair clean and shampoo them regularly.
- Clip your nails regularly. If they are long file them and keep them clean
- Don’t wear sweaty clothes again. Wash them properly and then sun-dry clothes.
- Dry your skin completely after bath and specifically between toes. Wet skin is ideal for ringworm to thrive
- Avoid walking bare feet, especially in gyms, locker rooms and public bathing places.