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Ringworm

 

What is ringworm?

Ringworm is a very common fungal skin infection also called tinea corporis. Ringworm is mostly common amongst children; however, it can affect people of all ages.  Despite the name “ringworm” it is not caused by a worm.

What are the symptoms of ringworm?

Ringworm usually causes a red, circular scaly rash on the skin.  The rash can develop on your body, beard or scalp, it can be itchy and usually has a defined edge, with a clearer colour centre. If ringworm develops in your hair (tinea capitis) it can cause bald patches. In severe cases rings can multiply and may merge together, the rings can vary in size and blisters or puss filled sores may form around the rings.

What causes ringworm?  

Ringworm is caused by a fungus, which usually lives harmlessly on your skin, ringworm occurs when the fungi grow and multiply. Fungi love humid, damp conditions and this gives the fungi ideal conditions to thrive, that is why locker rooms, showers, public pools and saunas are common places where the infection is spread. Ringworm can also be transferred from animals especially dogs and cats to humans.

What are the risk factors for ringworm?

You are more likely to get ringworm if:

  • You frequently wear damp socks or tight fitting shoes.
  • You share towels, floors etc with a person who has a fungal infection.
  • You have diabetes you might be at increased risk.
  • You have a low immune system.

Is ringworm contagious?

Yes, ringworm is contagious and can be spread by direct contact with an infected person. You can also develop ringworm with contact from a contaminated item, such as towels, bed linen or clothes.  It is important to wash hands after touching the rash to prevent the rash spreading.

What is the diagnosis for ringworm?

A doctor can easily diagnose ringworm by examining the infected area, the doctor might scrape the affected skin and send it away to confirm what type of fungi is causing the infection.

What is the treatment for ringworm?

Treatment for ringworm involves eliminating the fungi. There are a large range of treatments available to treat ringworm you must ensure you continue treatment for 2 weeks after the symptoms have cleared. The most effective creams to buy are antifungal creams that contain clotrimazole.

If the treatment hasn’t worked then you should book an appointment to see your doctor. Antifungal tablets can be prescribed for stubborn infections. If you continue to suffer your doctor might suggest a swab is taken so the exact organism that is causing the infection can be identified.

Ringworm on the scalp can be treated with antifungal shampoo.

How do I prevent ringworm?

As fungi thrive in damp conditions try to keep your skin clean and dry. Shampoo hair regularly especially after haircuts. Do not share towels, combs, hats or similar personal items with an infected person.  Wash clothes and bedsheets regularly and in very hot water. Avoid wearing tight fitting clothes that rub against the infected area. Wear slippers or sandals in locker rooms and public areas.

If you have a pet look for signs of ringworm like patches of missing hair or crusty scales. If you suspect ringworm you should take them to a vet.

What are the long-term effects of ringworm?

Most people can usually treat the condition before it spreads. If you itch or pick at the infected area it can develop an infection in your hands. It can also spread to your toenails or your groin. It is quite common to spread to the groin area as it can be transferred with towels or on your hands.  When touching the infected area always wash your hands thoroughly after.

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