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About Ringworm Infection

Ringworm, also known as Tinea or Dermatophytosis, is a fungal infection that develops on the top layer of the skin. It is characterized by a red circular rash with clear or red skin in the middle. Ringworm is not caused by worms. It gets its name due to the appearance of its rash. This infection can affect both humans and animals. The infection initially affects the skin and later it may spread to other parts of the body. It spreads by direct skin contact with an infected person or animal.


The types of ringworm are classified based on the site infected.:

Tinea Capitis (Ringworm infection of the scalp): It often starts as sores which lead to itchy and scaly scalp patches. It is most common in children.

Tinea Corporis (Ringworm infection of the body): It is characterised by circular patches all over the body. It is more common in young children.

Tinea Cruris (Jock itch): It is a form of ringworm that appears as patches around the groin, inner thighs, and buttocks. It is common in men and adolescent boys.

Tinea Pedis (Ringworm infection of the foot). It is common in adult men. Walking barefoot in damp areas such as the bathroom or around the swimming pool increases the risk of Tinea pedis.

Tinea Barbae (Ringworm infection of beard and moustache area): It commonly occurs in older adolescent and adult men and it appears as swellings and marked crusting.

Tinea Manuum (Ringworm infection of hands): It is characterised by dryness, peeling and mild itching or the palms and spaces between the fingers.

Tinea Unguium (Ringworm infection of the nails): It is characterised by white, thick and brittle nails. Toenails are more commonly affected than the fingernails.


There are many types of fungi which may cause this infection. Common ones include: Trichophyton rubrum, T. Tonsurans, T. Interdigitale, T. Mentagrophytes, Microsporum canis and Epidermophyton floccosum. Ringworm infection occurs in people of all ages but is more common in children. It mostly occurs in moist and warm areas of the body, such as skin folds of the groin or between the toes.

Risk Factors and complications

Individuals are at high risk of ringworm if they:

  • Live in warm climate
  • Have close contact with an infected person.
  • Participate in contact sports such as wrestling.
  • Wear tight clothing.
  • Have a weakened immune system.

Seldom does fungal infection spreads below the surface of the skin and cause serious illness.


Ringworm is diagnosed by examining the affected skin under a black light. The fungi will fluoresce under the black light. Physician may confirm ringworm infection by the following tests:

Skin biopsy or fungal culture: A sample of skin or discharge from a blister is collected and sent to the lab for detecting the presence of fungi.

Potassium hydroxide (KOH) Exam: The doctor may scrape off a small sample of the infected skin and treat it with potassium hydroxide solution.The solution dissolves the non-fungal elements while yeast cells and other fungi can be viewed under a microscope..


It is necessary to take anti-fungal medications to cure ringworm. It can be administered topically or systemically.

  • Topical Treatment: Antifungal creams can usually clear ringworm infection in two weeks. Antifungal creams may contain clotrimazole, or ketoconazole.
  • Systemic Treatment: Certain fungal infections like scalp fungus and fungus of the nails cannot be treated by creams or ointments. For such infections, oral antifungals are used. Griseofulvin is the only effective antifungal tablet which is used for long-term treatment. Itraconazole and fluconazole are now available and prescribed for a longer course.


Ringworm can be prevented by practicing healthy and hygienic habits. Preventive measures can be taken to reduce the risk of infection:

  • Wash hands after touching pets.
  • Individuals with weakened immune system should avoid physical contact with animals with ringworm.
  • Shower and shampoo hair regularly.
  • Wear shoes while walking in damp areas such as showers and around pools.
  • Avoid sharing of personal items like clothing or hair brushes.
  • Keep the feet clean and dry.
  • Educate people and children about the risk of infection from the infected people or pets.

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