What is ringworm?
Ringworm is a common fungal infection of the skin. It is scientifically called as tinea corporis, and belongs to the group dermatophytes. Ringworm does not involve worms, as the name suggests. Instead, its name comes from the ring-like red patches that can occur on the arms, legs, and trunk.
Both humans and animals can be affected by a ringworm infection. Initially, this fungal infection starts as red skin patches, which later spreads to other parts of the body. Ringworm may also affect the feet, scalp, beard, groin, and other areas of the body.
Ringworm symptoms usually depend on the affected area of the body. If you have a ringworm infection, you may experience the following symptoms on your skin:
- Red patches that are itchy or scaly
- A ring-shaped rash that may have a red or normal skin tone at the center
Types of Ringworm
The types of ringworm are usually named after the affected part of the body.
- Tinea capitis - This type of ringworm infection affects the scalp. The infection usually begins as small lesions, which develop into itchy and scaly patches on the scalp. This fungal infection is commonly seen in children.
- Tinea corporis - This type of fungal infection refers to ringworm of the body. Although it may occur on any part of the body, ring-like patches are commonly seen on the arms, legs, and trunk.
- Tinea cruris - Commonly known as jock itch, it refers to a ringworm infection that affects the area around the inner thighs, groin, and buttocks. This type of ringworm infection is more common in teenage boys and men.
- Tinea pedis - This fungal infection is also known as athlete’s foot since it is commonly seen in athletes. It usually affects the skin of the feet and may spread to the toenails or hands.
A ringworm infection is usually diagnosed through a physical examination and by asking patients about their symptoms. A skin scraping technique might also be performed by the doctor to collect a skin sample for fungal culture and further laboratory analysis.
Ringworm treatment usually depends on where the infection is located. Most cases of ringworm can be easily treated using over-the-counter antifungal medications. These medications are available in the form of gels, creams, sprays, lotions, shampoos, and powder.
Ringworm typically goes away within 1-4 weeks of topical treatment. However, consult a doctor if the infection continues to persist or gets worse even after using OTC antifungals and home remedies. Below are some of the common medications used for the treatment of fungal infections:
- Clotrimazole (Canesten, Lotrimin)
- Fluconazole (Diflucan)
- Miconazole (Zeasorb, Daktarin)
- Terbinafine (Lamisil)
- Oxiconazole (Oxistat)
- Ketoconazole (Extina, Nizoral, Xolegel)
- Itraconazole (Sporanox)
Treatment for athlete's foot and jock itch may also be used for the treatment of tinea corporis. Aside from using over-the-counter antifungals, wearing cotton clothing and underwear are often advised.
Wearing wide shoes, drying the feet between the toes after showering, and using lamb’s wool to keep the web space dry are recommended for individuals who experience recurrent or chronic athlete’s foot.
Some people may also need prescription antifungal medications for their ringworm infection, especially if the infection still persists within a few weeks. The doctor may prescribe oral antifungals, which are usually taken for 1-3 months. Oral medications include:
- Fluconazole (Diflucan)
- Itraconazole (Onmel, Sporanox)
- Griseofulvin (Gris-PEG)
The strength and formulation of antifungal medications usually vary and depend on a person's condition. For people who have ringworm of the scalp, a dosage of 250 mg terbinafine may be taken once a day for six weeks. For stubborn or persistent fungal infections, the duration of treatment typically depends on where the infection is located:
- Fungal Nail Infection - 6 weeks
- Toenail Fungus - 12 weeks
- Jock Itch and Tinea corporis - 2-4 weeks
- Athlete’s Foot - 2-6 weeks
For ringworm infection in children, the doctor calculates the dosage according to children's weight.
Natural Remedies for Ringworm
Ringworm infections can also be treated using natural home remedies. They include:
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is one of the most versatile natural remedies for numerous health conditions. Apple cider vinegar contains probiotics and natural acids, which are effective when it comes to fighting fungi, such as Candida.
You will need a cotton ball saturated with apple cider vinegar to apply to the affected ringworm areas. Apply apple cider vinegar to these areas 2-3 times a day until the infection goes away. People who have sensitive skin should start with only a small amount of ACV. A homemade apple cider vinegar antifungal spray can also be used aside from the cotton ball method.
2. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is also an effective essential oil that can be used for the treatment of ringworm. According to studies, tea tree oil possesses antibacterial, antiviral, antiprotozoal, and antifungal properties. To use tea tree oil, you can combine it with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil to the ringworm area.
In cases where you have a stubborn ringworm, oregano oil can be combined with tea tree oil along with coconut oil. Choose quality therapeutic grade essential oils for treatment. You will need:
- 2 drops of tea tree oil
- 3 drops of oregano oil
- A small amount of coconut oil
It is recommended to mix and store these oils in a glass bottle. Apply this mixture twice or thrice a day.
3. Oregano Oil
In some cases, oregano oil works similarly like antibiotics and antifungal medications. Oregano oil contains the compound called carvacrol, which has powerful antifungal and antibacterial properties. Fungal infections tend to clear up fast when oregano oil is topically used. However, it is important to remember that oil of oregano is quite strong, which is why it must be diluted with a carrier oil. A drop or two of oregano oil is usually enough when treating ringworm.
When to See a Doctor
Fungal infections like ringworm can be quite irritating and stubborn to treat, but they can be effectively treated using various topical and oral treatments. However, if you have developed large lesions on your skin without any improvement using natural remedies and OTC medications, consult a doctor to properly diagnose and treat your condition.
Antifungal medications may not be suitable for pregnant women and the elderly. See a doctor to determine the best treatment for your fungal infection.