Ringworm is a type of fungal infection that affects the skin. Ringworm is also referred to as 'tinea' and is in fact part of large group of fungal infections including jock itch (tinea cruris) and athlete's foot (tinea pedis). Medically, ringworm is also referred to as dermatophytosis as it is caused by a group of fungi referred to as dermatophytes.
A ringworm infection may lead to the appearance of a circular ring like patch on the skin, but while this is the most distinctive feature of a ringworm infection it is not necessarily always apparent. It should also be noted that not all round patches that you notice are ringworm. Some fungi lead to round patches on the skin while others do not. It must be kept in mind that all round patches may not be ringworm. In most cases the condition is easy to identify, but if you are even a little unsure it would be best to get a medical diagnosis immediately. Your doctor will make a diagnosis based on a physical examination and analysis of a skin sample. This will help to treat the condition effectively. Ringworm can develop at any age, but it tends to occur more commonly in children. It is a contagious infection that spreads through direct contact with the infected area. Ringworm can also spread by sharing personal items such as clothing, combs and towels.
Ringworm leads to a ring shaped spot on the body. This ring may spread as the infection progresses. In severe cases the skin may develop blisters. Ringworm may be restricted to many patches or just a single one. Ringworm may occur on the scalp, body, foot, groin and nails. Ringworm that affects the scalp is known as tinea capitis and its symptoms could include:
In some severe cases, a keroin may develop. This is a large area of inflammation filled with pus. It may be accompanied by symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes and fever.
Body ringworm or tinea corporis could cause symptoms like:
In severe cases of ringworm on the body, the ring may enlarge or multiple rings may join together. The rings may be slightly raised and itchy. There may also be blistering and pus formation around the rings.
The same fungi that are responsible for ringworm infections can also cause other types of fungal infections like jock itch, athlete's foot and toenail fungus. If not treated appropriately and proper practices of hygiene are not followed an infection of ringworm on the torso could easily spread to the groin area resulting in jock itch. Likewise, the infection could also spread to the feet resulting in athlete's foot. The symptoms of ringworm can be severely exacerbated by external factors such as exposure to irritants or from friction that may result when wearing tight clothing.
Ringworm spreads through various means of contact. Some of the most common ringworm causes include:
Some people are at a higher risk of developing ringworm. These include:
Ringworm is not a difficult condition to diagnose and in most cases you would be able to recognize the condition yourself. This may not always be the case however, but it is fairly easy for a doctor to diagnose and treat. Normally a diagnosis can be made purely based on appearance of the symptoms, but in rare cases your doctor may need to send a skin sample for testing. The treatment for ringworm generally involves the use of antifungal medications like topical ointments or creams. Oral medications are prescribed for more resilient infections and when the infection affects the scalp or nails. Topical antifungal ointments are also available over the counter and generally contain terbinafine. Pharmaceutical medications are most effective in the treatment of ringworm, but if you wish to you can also try using some alternative treatments.
Some popular home remedies for ringworm include:
There is no special diet recommended for the treatment of ringworm as the condition has no known dietary causes. If you wish to make changes to your diet however it would be best to simply make sure you follow a well balanced diet that includes foods from all the major food groups. This is important as your body requires an adequate supply of all essential nutrients for the immune system to function effectively. As in the case of any infection, your recovery and the outcome are mainly determined by your immune function.
In addition to conventional treatment or home remedies it may also help to take certain steps to ensure that the infection resolves and does not spread: