Also known as dermatophytid; tinea, ringworm is a misleading name for a contagious infection of the skin which is not caused by a worm but rather by a fungus that feeds on flesh of humans as well as mammalian farm and domestic animals such as sheep, cattle and pets.
The fungi causing ringworm flourish most adequately where the skin is warm and damp. Therefore, this fungal skin infection is most commonly found among athletes; those who participate in exertive activities that result in sweating; those who come in direct contact with other bodies such as in wrestling, and those who come in contact with public sports equipment, public shower stalls, public pools or locker room floors.
Furthermore, ringworm can affect several different parts of the body and each has its own scientific name and some even have a popular layman’s name. Thus, when affecting the scalp, ringworm is called tinea capitis; when affecting the groin area, ringworm is called tinea cruris or jock itch; when affecting the feet or, most particularly, between the toes ringworm is called tinea pedis and it is most commonly known as athlete’s foot. Finally, when ringworm affects any other part of the skin or nails it is called tinea corporis.
Symptoms of Ringworm
Ringworm often appears as a ring-shaped rash that is well defined around its edges but not always. Regardless of its shape, however, the rash of ringworm is always flushed red and extremely itchy as well as blistering and oozing fluids.
When appearing on the skin of a hairy part of the body such as the scalp or the beard area, ringworm will result in bald patches.
Ringworm affecting the feet (athlete’s foot) and ringworm affecting the hands have the same appearance. In both instances, the skin thickens, becomes dry and scaly and the areas between fingers and toes often end up with moist open sores. Here, too, the patients experience severe itching.
Ringworm that affects nails causes them to thicken, discolor and become bridle.
Sometimes ringworm is localized in one specific area while other times it can either spread or appear in several areas simultaneously.
Prevention Medicine For Ringworms
The best medicine is prevention and a few tips about preventing ringworm are:
- Do not share any personal effects such as clothing, shoe, socks, sports equipment, towels, mats or bedding.
- Do not wear tight fitting clothing, especially socks and underwear which must be changed at least once a day.
- Maintain your skin’s hygiene and be sure to dry it off thoroughly after bathing.
- To absorb excess moisture, use talcum power in the groin area, under the armpits and on the feet.
- Do not share toiletries such as soap bars, washcloths, loofahs, sponges, combs or brushes.
- Do not walk barefooted in public places such as public toilets, locker rooms, gymnasiums or even the beach or the park.
- If suspecting a possibility of exposure to or contact with ringworm, wash the body and clothing with antibacterial and anti-fungal soaps and hot water as soon as possible.
Topical antifungal creams or ointments are usually sufficient to clear up the infection which should not last more than two week. In cases that are more serious and do not respond well to topical treatments and when the ringworm appears on the scalp, systemic and oral medications may be prescribed.
For the duration of the infection, all clothing, bedding or towels which come in contact with the affected area must be washed daily.
Alternatively, clear nail polish applied to the infected area has shown to be an effective treatment when the condition is not overly severe.