Contrary to popular belief, ringworms are not caused by worms, but by fungus instead. It is highly contagious and affects the skin and scalp. This infection is seen primarily in humans and animals.
This infection causes red, rough and itchy patches on the skin surfaces, which later spread to other body parts. These patches begin to ooze and develop into blisters. Ringworm has also been known to affect the groin, feet, beard and other areas of the skin.
These fungi grow well in a moist environment such as showers, bathroom floors and walls, swimming pools and also in between the skin folds. The vectors for this disease include pets such as cats and dogs. There are multiple forms of ringworm fungi, which affect different body parts. Ringworm is also known by names like Dermatophytosis or Tinea.
How Do You Get Ring Worm?
There are 40 different types of fungi which cause this infection, but most of them fall under the types:
These fungi are mainly present in the spores of soil. Coming into contact with such soil will result in an infection. Furthermore, this is a contagious infection and can spread from animals and between people. Other risk factors include walking bare-foot, playing contact sports like wrestling, excessive sweat, compromised immunity and obesity.
Types of Ringworm
Ringworm is classified based on the part of the body it affects.
- Tinea capitis: This fungal infection affects the scalp. It is also known by the name of scalp ringworm. (Tinea: Technical term for ringworm.) (Capitis: Latin for “of the head“)
- Tinea corporis: This fungal infection might occur in any part of the body. Thus it is known as body ringworm. (Corporis: Latin for “of the body”)
- Tinea cruris: This fungal infection affects the skin around the inner thighs, buttocks, and groin. It is also known as the Jock itch. (Cruris: Latin for “of the leg”)
- Tinea pedis: This fungal infection affects both the foot, in between the fingernails and toenails. It is also known as Athlete’s foot. (Pedis: Latin for “of the foot”)
Symptoms of Ringworm
Ringworm symptoms vary depending upon the site of infection. The following are the common characteristic symptoms of the disease.
- Red, scaly, itchy, with raised patches.
- Patches that develop blisters or begin to ooze.
- Reddish patches on the skin which resemble a ring-like structure.
- Pus-filled, raised blisters
- Athlete’s foot.
- Infection in areas like groin, inner thighs, beard, hands, scalp and in between the fingernails and toenails.
Diagnosis of Ringworm
Identifying ringworm infection is very easy. It primarily depends on the location and appearance of certain abnormalities in the skin such as bumps, scaly skins etc. Below are common diagnostic procedures done by doctors to diagnose ringworms.
- A black light (also called UV-A or Wood’s lamp) is used to illuminate affected areas on the body. Presence of the fungal infection will glow under the light.
- KOH exam- The scrapings of the infected skin is collected and mixed with the prepared potassium (K) hydroxide (OH) solution. The KOH tests detect the fungi by removing the unaffected cells and leaving the fungal cells aside. The test results are checked under the microscope to detect ringworms.
- Skin biopsy – A small section of a skin tissue is cut and examined under a microscope to detect fungi. It can detect a range of infections and disorders
- Fungal culture: A large swab is brushed over the infected areas. These samples are then sent to a lab for analysis to identify the causative microbes. This procedure helps to determine the best course of treatment for the infection.
A variety of products to treat ringworm infections are available in the market, such as antifungal cream, lotion, and powder. Sometimes, even home remedies are very effective.
- The best antifungal creams used for this infection are miconazole or terbinafine, which should be applied twice in a day on the infected region until the symptoms withdraw
- Amphotericin B is a very powerful fungicide that is used in the most serious cases of fungal infections
- There are many home remedies which help to prevent and control the infections. Using talcum powder is recommended as it helps to control sweating
- Home remedies include neem, which is a particularly effective antimicrobial and antifungal agent
Following precautions is one of the best methods to avoid ringworms. And more than often, lifestyle choices and decisions affect how the disease is spread. For instance, obesity increases the risk of ringworm.
- Maintain cleanliness and hygiene
- Wash hands with sanitizers
- Wear clean ironed clothes
- Avoid using communal pools
- Wear loose-fitting cotton clothes to avoid the accumulation of sweat
- The skin folds have to be kept clean regularly to avoid the accumulation of sweat and dirt between the creases
- Having shower twice a day is also recommended
- Touching or scratching the itchy red patches would help to prevent it from spreading
Ringworm is not a serious disease but it is a sign of poor hygiene and a precursor to many other major diseases and infections.
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