ringworm What is a ringworm?

Ringworm is type of fungalinfection, which affects the skin. Unlike the name, it has nothing to do with worms. Ringworm infection also affects scalp (scalp ringworm), foot (athletes foot), groin (tinea cruris) and nails. Here ringworm affecting the skin is only described.

How does it spread?

People get affected from ringworm infection from person to person via touching an infected person, sharing towels, etc. Animals such as dogs, cats, and other pets have fungal infections on their skin. They can pass on the infection, especially to children. Fungi are common and an infection may seem to occur for no apparent reason. These may occur because you have come into contact with fungi that are in the soil or that have contaminated objects that you touch.

A small area of infected skin tends to spread outwards. It typically develops into a circular, red, inflamed patch of skin. The outer edge is more inflamed and scaly than the paler centre. So, it often looks like a ring that becomes gradually larger - hence the name ringworm. Sometimes only one patch of infection occurs. Sometimes several patches occur over the body, particularly if you catch the infection from handling an infected animal.

What are the symptoms?

The rash may be mildly irritating, but sometimes it is very itchy and inflamed. The rash may vary depending on which type of fungus causes the infection. Sometimes fungal skin infections look similar to other skin rashes, such as psoriasis.

How is it treated?

There are anti fungal creams, which one can apply. These are applied to the surrounding 4-6 cm of normal skin in addition to the rash. Creams are applied for as long as advised by doctor, also one needs to read the instructions carefully.

For skin that is particularly inflamed, your doctor may prescribe an antifungal cream combined with a mild steroid cream. This would normally be used for no more than seven days. You may need to continue with an antifungal cream alone for a time afterwards. The steroid reduces inflammation and may ease itch and redness quickly. However, the steroid does not kill the fungus and so a steroid cream alone should not be used.

An antifungal medicine taken by mouth is sometimes prescribed if the infection is widespread or severe. Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding, people with other conditions or who are on other medication, or children aged under 12 may not be able to use certain types. Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you come into one of these groups.You do not need to stay off work or school once treatment has started. To prevent passing on the infection, do not share towels. Also, try not to scratch the rash, as this may spread the fungus to other areas of your body.

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