Ringworm: Treatment, symptoms, and pictures

Ringworm, or tinea, refers to several types of contagious fungal infections of the top layer of the skin, scalp, and nails.

It is called ringworm because the itchy, red rash has a ring-like appearance. However, ringworm is nothing to do with worms.

It can affect different parts of the body.

In this article, we will cover ringworm’s causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.

Fast facts on ringworm

Here are some key points about ringworm. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.

Ringworm is nothing to do with worms.

Ringworm is caused by a fungus that eats keratin, a protein found in skin, hair, and nails.

Children under 15 are particularly susceptible to ringworm.

Treatment

Treatment depends on the type of ringworm:

Scalp ringworm

The most common treatments for scalp ringworm are oral antifungals (tablets). However, the choice of medication will depend on the type of fungi involved.

Terbinafine (Lamisil): The side effects are normally mild and do not last long. They may include diarrhea and nausea. People with a history of liver disease should not take terbinafine.

Griseofulvin (Grisovin): The side effects, which usually go away fairly quickly, may include headache, indigestion, and nausea.

Anti-fungal shampoos: These help prevent the spread of ringworm and may speed up recovery, but they do not cure it. Various anti-fungal shampoos are available for purchase online.

Shaving a child’s head: There is no evidence that this reduces ringworm infection or accelerates recovery time.

Ringworm close up
It is important to wash the area gently.

Care for the skin properly can help speed recovery.

Wash the skin gently

Dry the skin thoroughly but gently.

Pat the skin with a towel in tender areas, but do not rub.

Make sure any folds and areas between the toes are dried thoroughly.

Change sock or underwear more often than usual if they cover an infected area.

Always treat the feet and groin at the same time, as infection often spreads from one area to another.

Where possible, wear loose-fitting clothing and undergarments, such as boxers.

Symptoms

Different types of ringworm affect different parts of the body.

Scalp ringworm (tinea capitis): This is most common in younger children, and occasionally it affects adults. It is more common in urban environments where people live closer together, giving the fungus more opportunities to spread.

Body (skin) ringworm (tinea corporis): This can affect infants, children, and adults.

Groin infections (tinea cruris): Also known as jock itch, this is more common among young men.

Tinea pedis: Athlete’s foot is a common foot infection.

Tinea unguium: Also known as onychomycosis, it is an infection of the nail bed.

Ringworm in the beard area: This affects males who can grow facial hair, and it often results from contact with an animal that has ringworm.

Different types have different symptoms.

Scalp ringworm

small patches of scaly skin appear on the scalp.

patches may feel tender or painful and be inflamed.

hair breaks away on or near the patches

kerion, or large inflamed sores, form on the scalp, and they may ooze pus

The person may have a temperature and swollen glands or lymph nodes, but this is uncommon.

Body or skin ringworm

Symptoms include:

a rash with a ring-like appearance

the skin may be red and inflamed around the outside of the ring, but look fine in the middle

merging rings

rings feel slightly raised

itchiness, especially under the rash.

Groin infection

There may be:

itchiness, especially in and around the groin

redness and a burning sensation in the affected area

flaky and scaly skin on the inner thighs

symptoms worsen when walking, running, or exercising

tight clothing makes symptoms worse

Beard area

This can involve:

redness, swelling, and pus-filled bumps

hair loss, which usually resolves after treatment

swollen glands

raw, open skin and raised, soft, spongy patches that weep

tiredness

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