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 depends on the type of 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.
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.
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.
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
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
rings feel slightly raised
itchiness, especially under the rash.
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
This can involve:
redness, swelling, and pus-filled bumps
hair loss, which usually resolves after treatment
raw, open skin and raised, soft, spongy patches that weep