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Ringworm is a skin infection caused by a fungus. Its name is very contrary ringworm is not caused by a worm but by parasitic fungus. Ringworm is also known as "Tinea", Tinea is the Latin name for a growing worm. The infection causes a rash that may have a ring-shape with a raised edge. It can be quite itchy and flaky. When the scalp is infected, there is often an area of baldness. Fungal infections of the feet are usually very itchy and cause cracking between the toes. Ringworm, which isn't a worm at all, can affect not only the skin, but also the nails and scalp. It can exist anywhere on the body.

Possible Complications

  • Skin infections
  • Side effects from medications
  • Spread of ringworm to other areas

Other alternative names of Ringworm: Dermatophytid

Types of Ringworm
Following are the types of ringworm, or tinea

  • Tinea barbae: This type of ringworm is related to the bearded area of the face and neck. The symptoms include swellings, itching, hair break off etc.
  • Tinea capitis: This type of ringworm is related to the scalp and commonly affects children. This disease may spread in children from schools.
  • Tinea corporis: This type of ringworm affects the skin of the body and it produces the round spots of classic ringworm.
  • Tinea cruris: This type of ringworm is related to the groin (jock itch) tends to have a reddish-brown color and to extend from the folds of the groin down onto one or both thighs.
  • Tinea faciei: Ringworm on the face except in the area of the beard. On the face, ringworm is rarely found as ring-shaped.
  • Tinea manus: This type of ringworm is related to the hands and particularly to the palms and the spaces between the fingers. It typically causes thickening of these areas, often on only one hand.
  • Tinea pedis: Athlete's foot may cause scaling and inflammation in the toe webs, especially the one between the fourth and fifth toes.
  • Tinea unguium: The fungus of this type of ringworm can make the fingernails and toenails yellow, thick, and crumbly. They are called fungal nails.

Causes of Ringworm
Ringworm is a common skin disorder, especially among children, but it may affect people of all ages. The agents are called the dermatophytes, which means skin fungi. They rarely invade deeper into the body and cannot live on mucous membranes, such as those in the mouth or vagina.

  • Ringworm spreads from person to person by touch. When someone with ringworm touches or scratches the rash, the fungus sticks to the fingers or gets under the fingernails. The fungus is then spread when that person touches someone else.
  • Ringworm of the scalp can also spread if combs and hairbrushes are shared.
  • These infections are caused by several types of mold-like fungi called dermatophytes that live on the dead tissues of the skin, hair, and nails.

Signs & Symptoms of Ringworm
Ringworm is not a condition to be taken lightly. The symptoms of ringworm can be highly contagious and spread easily. The symptoms of ringworm include:

  • Skin appear unusually dark or light.
  • Patch appeared as of a ring
  • Bald patches
  • Itchy, red, raised, scaly patches
  • Nails become discolored, thick, and even crumbled

Diagnosis of Ringworm
Ringworm is diagnosed primarily based on the appearance of the skin.

  • A KOH test is used to diagnose fungal infections of the skin or nails. The skin or nail is scraped with a scalpel or glass slide causing dead skin cells to fall off onto a glass slide. A few drops of Potassium hydroxide (KOH) are added to the slide and the slide is heated for a short time. The KOH dissolves the material binding the skin cells together releasing the fungus.
  • Diagnosis can be made by scraping the affected area of skin and examining the cells under a microscope.
  • Fungus may appear florescent when your skin is examined with a blue light in a dark room.
  • Skin scrapings for microscopic examination and a culture of the affected skin can establish the diagnosis of tinea or rule it out.

Preventions of Ringworm
To prevent ringworm

  • Avoid touching pets with bald spots.
  • Do not share clothing, towels, hairbrushes, combs, headgear, or other personal care items.
  • Infection can be spread from contact with animals, like cats and dogs
  • Items should be thoroughly cleaned and dried after use.
  • Keep your skin and feet clean and dry.
  • Shampoo regularly, especially after haircuts.
  • Wear sandals or shoes at gyms, lockers, and pools.

Treatments of Ringworm
A severe or persistent infection may require treatment by a doctor.

  • Ringworm can be cured with the help of medication. Some medications are taken by mouth.
  • Ointments or creams can also be used for the treatment of infected area.
  • Antifungal pills may be given and are necessary if your hair is infected.
  • Antibiotics may also be needed to treat related bacterial infections.
  • Infected pets should also be treated.

What can parents do?

  • Check signs of ringworm typical circular rash on the child's head or skin.
  • Children should not return to child care or to school until after treatment has started.
  • Contact your doctor if you think your child has ringworm.
  • Make sure his hands are washed after touching the infected skin.
  • Make sure that no one uses the child's comb, hairbrush, face cloths and towels.

When to Call a Doctor   
Generally, ringworm infections are not emergencies. But call your doctor right away if you have any signs of a bacterial infection, which can result from scratching.

  • If Ringworm infects your scalp or beard.
  • If your skin does not improve after 4 weeks of self-care.

A topical ointment or cream usually takes care of skin infections, but ringworm of the scalp or nails requires oral antifungal medication. Your doctor will decide which treatment is best for you.

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