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Ringworm (Tinea) - Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Ringworm (Tinea) is basically a fungal infection that thrives on the top layer of the skin. Let us have a look at the causes, symptoms, and treatment that will evict this infection, in this article.
HealthHearty Staff
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
Did You Know?
Ringworm can be transmitted from pets to humans. Hence, one not only needs to be very careful, but also needs to ensure that their pet is healthy by way of taking it for routine check-ups to the vet.

Initially, ringworm was taught to be caused by a worm, thus earning its name. Eventually, it was discovered that this condition is not actually caused by a worm, but a fungus that lives on the top layer of the skin. Though the name 'ringworm' stuck, the medical term for it is actually tinea.
Though the appearance of this infection is not limited to any one kind, it most commonly can be identified through red rings that appear on the skin. Ringworm tends to occur on the arms, legs, the scalp, the beard area, or even the groin. It is known to occur in people of all ages, though it is commonly observed to occur more in children as compared to adults.
What Causes It?

Ringworm is caused by dermatophytes (skin fungi). Dermatophytes are the few types of yeast, molds and fungi that only live on keratin- the layer of dead skin cells on the surface of the skin. They affect all areas of the body from the scalp to the feet. They hardly ever travel below the surface of the skin. Some very common reasons of contracting this infection are:
  • Having wet skin for a long time, either from sweating or any other reason
  • Minor injuries on the skin or on the nails
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Direct or indirect contact with someone suffering from ringworm, such as directly touching someone with ringworm, or touching their clothing/combs/other personal items. It can also spread by touching infected walls or through pool water.
So basically, we intentionally or unintentionally provide them a wonderful place to live, for certainly they are on our bodies daily through contact with animals, dirt, or even other people. When and if we practice daily cleanliness, we prevent them from "moving in" and staying on our skin.
Signs and Symptoms

It must be noted that all kinds of ringworm are contagious, directly (patient to patient) and indirectly (via school, home and other furniture). Toenail ringworm is especially contagious as it can transfer from toe to toe via toenail clippers. The most common symptoms are:
  • A circular flat area of reddened itchy skin.
  • A round, reddened, and swollen area of skin surrounding a healthy area of skin.
  • A red, dry, somewhat elevated area of increasingly large rings. These can be found on either the body or the face.
  • Hair loss in the affected area
Please note, do not mistake ringworm for similar conditions such as Athlete's foot. Ringworm of the scalp begins with a pimple and gradually builds outward, creating a bald spot and brittle hair that are easily broken. Ringworm of the feet produce a dry peeling area of dead skin, and ringworm of the nails (usually toenails) produce a very thick nail that is pale gray or yellow in color.
Treatment

The first thing to do when treating this is to avoid self-diagnosis, and to get a correct diagnosis from a doctor. Treatment is administered either topically, or orally. There are quite a few creams and medicines which can be taken for treating this infection, most of which are over-the-counter.
Ringworm generally is known to go away within four weeks of treatment. If the infection still persists, going to the doctor is imperative and recommended.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.