Ringworm is a fungal infection which develops in the outer layer of skin.
Ringworm is also referred to as dermatophytosis and is known to affect various parts of the skin. Since the term used is ringworm, people think it is a worm, but it is actually a fungi that triggers this skin infection.
Ringworm infections can affect both humans and animals. The infection initially presents with red patches on affected areas of the skin and later spreads to other parts of the body. The infection may affect the skin of the scalp, feet, groin, beard, or other areas.
The characteristic feature of this skin infection is the appearance of a red circular rash resembling a ring, but there is no actual worm involved in its pathogenesis.
Itching might be present or absent. Also known by the name of Tinea corporis, ringworm of the body closely resembles athlete’s foot (Tenia pedis), jock itch (Tinea curis), and ringworm of the scalp (Tinea captis).
There are a number of microorganisms that are found in the environment that are known to attack our bodies in various ways causing various forms of infections. The ringworm infection is just one infection that commonly occurs in both children and adults, affecting various parts of the body.
Direct skin to skin contact with an infected person or animal can spread this infection.
Anti-fungal drugs are used to treat ringworm. Generally anti-fungal ointments are used for mild infections, but in severe cases anti-fungal pills can be prescribed.
Treatment to cure any fungal infection usually takes several weeks to months.
The most prominent symptom of a ringworm infection begins with a rash that could be accompanied with peeling, severe itching, and redness. This redness could appear anywhere on the skin, usually around the foot.
Flat scaly skin that can be itchy and red is the main symptom of ringworm.
The affected patches of skin usually have slightly raised and irregular borders, and expand outward, forming a rough circular ring, resembling waves or a worm.
The inner part of the ring may be clear, scaly, or marked with scattered red bumps.
In some people several circular red bumps may develop and may overlap one another.
The symptoms of ringworm could appear on the stomach, chest, arms, legs, and even the back.
When this condition occurs around the hand , it is often misunderstood to be a sign of eczema.
Here are some symptoms that show up when ringworm appears on the hands:
The palm appears dry and scaly, which looks a lot like an athlete’s foot skin infection. Although the affected area seems exceptionally dry, the skin in between the fingers could retain its moisture. At the same time, could have sores that look like a skin infection.
On the backside of the palm, the infection could cause redness and scaling on the skin along with blisters that are bumpy and sometimes could be filled with infected liquid too.
In a ringworm infection of the hands, the infection can even spread to the nails, then categorized as a fungal nail infection.
Ringworm of the skin may be confused with other conditions that have similar symptoms, such as eczema or psoriasis.
The fungus known as Tinea corporis is the main cause of ringworm.
These parasites like to live on skin cells.
Ringworm is a contagious fungal infection and can be spread through the following ways of contact:
Human to human: Ringworm spreads by direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected person.
Animal to human: You can contract ringworm by directly touching an infected animal, Ringworm can spread through petting dogs or cats. It is also common in cows.
Object to human: Ringworm can spread by touching objects that previously came in to contact with the infected person or. Objects such as contaminated clothing, towels, bedding, linens, combs, and brushes can also act as source of infection.
Soil to human: In some cases, ringworm can spread by the means of infected soil. Infection in such cases will only occur if the contact is for an extended period of time and soil is very heavily infected.
4 Making a diagnosis
Your doctor will perform a physical examination as a first step for ringworm diagnosis. The characteristic skin lesions will help the doctor to proceed to another test in which he confirms whether the causative agent of infection (dermatophytosis) is a fungus or not.
To confirm the presence of fungus, your doctor will examine your hand under a black light. The area of the skin infected with fungus glows. This is due to the characteristic fluorescent property of fungus.
Your doctor may confirm the suspected diagnosis of ringworm by requesting certain tests.
Your doctor will take material from one of the lesions in the skin and send it for further laboratory investigation to determine the presence of fungus.
In this examination, the doctor scrapes out some of the infected area and adds KOH solution to it. Potassium hydroxide has a tendency to destroy normal cells of the skin and leaves fungus untouched, so that they become easy to see under a microscope.
Anti-fungal treatments are used for ringworm infections caused by fungus.
They include topical agents such as:
These topical ointments are usually needed to be applied twice daily until symptoms resolve, usually within one or two weeks. This topical treatment must be continued for one week after the disappearance of symptoms to prevent reoccurrence.
The total duration of treatment is usually two weeks, but it may be prolonged or reduced depending on the clinical appearance and severity.
In more severe cases, systemic treatments with oral administration or injections of anti-fungal drugs are carried out.
To prevent the lesions from spreading, proper hygiene must be followed and the body must be washed regularly with good quality anti-fungal soap.
To prevent ringworm, adhere by the following:
Avoid sharing clothing, sports equipment, towels, or sheets
Wash clothes in hot water with fungicidal soap after suspected exposure to ringworm
Avoid walking barefoot, instead wearing proper shoes in change rooms and sandals on beach
Avoid touching pets with bald spots, as this could signal a ringworm infection.
There is not a vaccine for human beings available for ringworm, but for dogs, horses, and cats there is a vaccine called onsol dermatophyton, which provides protection against several strains of fungus for a limited period of time. Make sure you stay up-to-date with your pets' ringworm vaccinations and treatment.
7 Alternative and homeopathic remedies
Some of the alternative remedies to reduce ringworm symptoms include:
For large blisters and sores, use a Burow's solution compress (available without prescription) to soothe and dry out blisters
Apply over-the-counter antifungal cream beyond the edge or the border of the lesion so that there is no significant spreading of the infection.
Follow the instructions on the package, and don’t stop using the medicine if you see symptoms fading away because there is always a chance of relapse.
If the symptoms do not improve after 2 weeks, make another visit to your doctor.
Home remedies may include turmeric, garlic, vinegar, and salt. Natural treatments that can relieve the skin include aloe vera, lavender oil, lemongrass tea, and olive leaf.
When ringworm remains untreated, it could result in several complications, including spreading to other parts of the body. It is very easy for the infection to spread around the body, as in the case of any fungal infection.
There are medicines that will be prescribed by your doctor, but natural remedies can be beneficial alongside your medications. The severity of the infection will determine the time taken for the infection to heal from the natural remedies.
Some of the most effective natural treatments that are helpful in treating ringworm skin infections are:
Tea tree oil: Tea tree oil is a natural essential oil that has multiple health benefits, particularly when it comes to combating infections of any kind. The anti-fungal and antiseptic properties found in tea tree oil are helpful in treating skin diseases of various types. Tea tree oil can also be extremely helpful in treatment of acne and pimples. Dilute the tea tree oil in some water and soak a cotton ball in this solution. Gently dab this soaked cotton over the affected area and let the oil soak into the wound.
Apple cider vinegar: Apple cider vinegar is an excellent natural agent that has anti-fungal properties that are beneficial in treating skin infections. Apple cider vinegar is also helpful in managing and reducing ringworm as it naturally kills the fungi causing the infection. To use apple cider vinegar in treating fungal infection patches, apply apple cider vinegar, without diluting, with clean cotton. Cover the entire area where the infection persists with the vinegar. Repeat this two to three times a day and continue for as long as the infection traces are completely gone from the surface of the skin. Scientific research has proved that apple cider when used regularly for treating fungal infections can show a very effective result in completely eliminating the infection.
Turmeric: A secret in your kitchen cabinet. Turmeric has been spoken of very highly in ayurveda for its antibiotic qualities that can help in treating diseases and infections from the inside. This remedy can help you find relief from possible infections, bacterial and fungal, that affect the skin. Apply fresh turmeric juice to the affected area with a clean cotton ball at least 3 times a day. Regularly practice this remedy until the infection completely fades away. Be careful to avoid contact with clothing as it may stain.
Mustard seeds: The tiny mustard seeds have immense value when it comes to healing infections like ringworm. In some warm water, add about a spoonful of mustard seeds and grind to a paste. Apply this paste to the infected area. The properties of mustard seeds help in relieving irritation and itching that often results from ringworm infections.
8 Lifestyle and coping
Obviously some lifestyle changes are required after contracting ringworm since it is highly contagious and since it usually takes a chronic form.
For mild cases of ringworm, topical application of anti-fungal ointments are effective.
The course of treatment is usually for two to three weeks and it should be completed without any interruptions.
In this period, symptoms such as scaling of skin and itching might vary from one individual to another.
There is a basic need to keep the lesion clean and dry and avoid getting into contact with others.
Also use special anti-fungal solutions to wash lesions and areas around it as to avoid spreading.
All health agencies often recommend that the key to treating ringworm is to practice personal hygiene. This is all the more important for persons suffering from other diseases like diabetes and other illness that can impact the immune system of a person. Food and nutrition is also important to enhance the immunity of a person that can prevent such infections.
Ringworm should not be ignored under any circumstances and should be immediately addressed for quick treatment.
9 Risks and Complications
There are several risks and complications associated with ringworm.
You are predisposed to be infected with ringworm if you:
Are a child younger than 15 years old (spreading of infection through contaminated soil and weak immunity)
Live in damp, humid, or crowded conditions
Have close contact with an infected person or animal
Share bedding, clothing, and towels with an infected person
Participate in sports which have direct skin to skin contact, such as wrestling
Wear tight clothing
Have a weak immune system
Fungal skin infections rarely spread under the skin. When they do, there is risk of infection entering the bloodstream, which can be fatal.
People with a compromised immune system can have systemic toxic effects, such as those infected with HIV/AIDS, and people with some cancers.
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