Tinea or ringworms are skin infections that are caused by fungi. The term “ringworm” is actually a misnomer because it is not really due to a worm. Ringworms are named so because they look like round patches on the skin that are enclosed by red, raised borders that look like rings. In the past, doctors initially thought that these are due to worms, so they called them ringworms. However, further study later on revealed that these infections are actually due to a fungus.
You can catch ringworm from infected individuals, or even from infected pets. You can also catch it from items such as sports equipment, locker floors and shower stalls, or pool area that has the fungus. In addition, you can spread ringworm from one body part (feet) to another (groin).
These fungi can invade different parts of the body. Ringworms are named differently depending on where they are located:
- Tinea capitis refers to fungal infection on the head. This usually appear as circular patches bald spots on the scalp.
- Tinea corporis refers to fungal infection on the body. It appears as a oval scaly area with a raised red outer edge while the center is flat and skin colored.
- Tinea manum refers to fungal infection on the hands.
- Tinea pedis refers to fungal infection on the foot. This is commonly known as athlete’s foot where skin on the feet – usually between the toes – to become oozy, red, itchy, and scaly..
- Tinea cruris refers to fungal infection on the groin. This is commonly known as jock itch and appears as a red, itchy rash in the groin and can spread onto the thighs and toward the buttocks. It is more common in men and it often is exacerbated by damp sweaty conditions
- Tinea barbae refers to fungal infection on the beard.
- Tinea faciei refers to fungal infection on the face.
Signs and Symptoms
Ringworms are characterized by the following signs and symptoms:
- Round patches on the skin that are enclosed by red, raised borders that look like red rings.
- Scaling of the skin inside the patch
- Discoloration of the skin inside the patch
- Loss of hair inside the patch
- Itch (variable)
A doctor can usually diagnose ringworm just by looking at its appearance. However, in borderline cases, a doctor might request for a sample of the scrapings of the infected skin. This sample will be sent to the laboratory and will be viewed under the microscope.
Treatment of ringworm fungal skin infections consists of antifungal creams or ointments. Your doctor might prescribe you with an antifungal cream like ketoconazole or clotrimazole. You can also try over-the-counter anti-fungal ointments. In some instances, anti-fungal tablets might also be prescribed. Scalp infections can only be treated by tablets.
In addition to the creams for this fungal infection, the following steps are also helpful in preventing the spread of the infection:
- Do not scratch your skin lesions. Resist the itch. Scratching can damage the skin and worsen the condition. It can also promote the spread of the infection to other body parts or to other people.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
- Avoid sharing personal things like clothes, towel, comb, brush, and sports equipment.
- Keep your body clean and dry.
- Avoid walking barefoot especially when at the gym, local pool, or other public areas.
- Avoid tight fitting clothes and change daily.
- Have your pets examined by a vet to check for fungal infections.
- Keep your home clean especially the things that frequently get in contact with your skin like the sofa, bed, chairs, pillows, and others.