Smiling woman in white sweater happy after Canesten ringworm treatment

Facts about ringworm

Find out how ringworm spreads, its causes and who are most at risk of suffering from the condition. Learn about common ringworm symptoms, treatment options and prevention methods.

What is ringworm?

Firstly, and fortunately, ringworm has nothing to do with worms. It is caused by a group of fungi called dermatophytes that are responsible for many similar fungal skin infections. Medically known as tinea corporis, ringworm is a fungal infection of the top layer of your skin.1 It normally shows up as a red or silver rash that can be scaly, dry, swollen or itchy.2 The lesion caused by this infection resembles a worm in the shape of a ring – hence the name.1

The rings usually spread outwards as they progress, while the centre may heal and go back to a normal colour. Ringworm can appear anywhere on the body, including the scalp (tinea capitis), groin (jock itch) or foot (athlete’s foot). Ringworm on the face or scalp may lead to patchy hair loss.2

Ringworm is contagious, and you can catch it through close contact with contaminated objects like bedsheets, combs or towels, an infected person, animal or – in rare cases – through infected soil. Ringworm can also be spread from, and to, different parts of your body. The infection is commonly spread among children, and it also occurs in people who own cats and dogs. Animals can catch ringworm and pass it to humans through touch.

What are ringworm causes?

Ringworm is contagious, and you can catch it through close contact with contaminated objects like bedsheets, combs or towels, an infected person, animal or – in rare cases – through infected soil.3 Ringworm can also be spread from, and to, different parts of your body. The infection is commonly spread among children, and it also occurs in people who own cats and dogs. Animals can catch ringworm and pass it to humans through touch.4

Who can get ringworm?

The fungi responsible for ringworm can easily enter the top layer of your skin if it becomes soft and wet from prolonged water exposure, or if you have minor injuries or abrasions. You are also more at risk if you use public showers or swimming pools, as fungi thrives in moist and warm environments. You can also catch ringworm if you share hairbrushes or clothes with an infected person.5

Ringworm symptoms

Ringworm symptoms aren’t always the same and vary depending on how severe your infection is. They can also change depending on the infected part of your body. You should be aware that you may not notice ringworm right away.

You may have ringworm if you notice:

  • Round patches of skin with a red raised edge and a clearer centre

  • Scaly and itchy skin

  • Redness and scaling at the edge of the rash (inflammation)

  • Raised and blistered skin (this is a symptom of a more severe ringworm infection)

  • Multiple ring-like rashes (this is a symptom of a severe infection)

  • Inflamed pus-filled sores (this is a symptom of a severe infection)6,7,8

Ringworm Treatment

Ringworm treatment

It’s best to treat ringworm as soon as possible because the infection might cause complications. First of all, if untreated, ringworm can spread to other areas of the body. Secondly, you might put others at risk of catching the infection. Thirdly, ringworm may cause you other unpleasant complications like hair loss, scarring and nail deformities.9

Because ringworm is a fungal infection, you should consider an antifungal medicine as the best treatment option. You can choose to use a cream, lotion, and spray , depending on where the rash is located on your body. Ringworm treatment with antifungal medication normally takes around three to four weeks and you should apply it 2-3 times each day.10

Antifungal medication which contain Clotrimazole can effectively treat your ringworm infection and provide relief from your symptoms. 

Remember it is important to complete the whole course for effective treatment, even if your symptoms go away and it looks like the infection is clearing up.

When to see a doctor?

  • You should see a doctor if ringworm hasn’t improved after using an antifungal medication for seven days. You should also consider seeing a doctor if you have ringworm on your scalp or face, or if you have a weakened immune system.11
  • If you are pregnant or elderly, a doctor can advise you if you can use an antifungal medication or recommend an alternative treatment option.
     

Ringworm prevention

A ringworm infection is difficult to prevent because the fungus causing it is both very common and contagious. However, you can reduce the risk of being infected or spreading ringworm to others if you practice healthy and hygienic habits. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Wash your hands regularly, especially after having contact with animals

  • Keep common areas clean. Disinfect and clean pet living areas

  • Avoid touching, rubbing or scratching an infected area to prevent the infection from spreading to other parts of the body

  • Avoid using other people’s clothes, towels, brushes. Don’t share your belongings with other people if you have a ringworm infection

  • Wear flip-flops if showering or walking in communal areas
  • If you or someone close to you is suffering from a ringworm infection, educate them on the risk catching it, the symptoms to look out for and how to avoid it

  • Change your underwear after swimming or working out 12,13

REFERENCES:

  1. What is ringworm?, in: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/ringworm/
  2. Recognizing ringworm symptoms, in: https://www.healthline.com/health/ringworm
  3. Overview, in: https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-is-ringworm-contagious
  4. Is ringworm contagious?, in: https://www.healthline.com/health/ringworm
  5. Ibid.
  6. Tinea Corporis, in: Hainer, B.L., Dermatophyte Infections, in: American Family Physician 2003, vol. 67, Number 1, p. 104
  7. Presentation, Tinea Corporis, in: Buttaravoli, op. cit.
  8. Recognizing ringworm symptoms, in: https://www.healthline.com/health/ringworm
  9. Ringworm left untreated, in: https://www.https://www.healthline.com/health/ringworm
  10. Tinea Corporis, in: Hainer, B.L., Dermatophyte Infections, in: American Family Physician 2003, vol. 67, Number 1, p. 104-105
  11. See a GP if:, in: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/ringworm/
  12. Preventing ringworm, in: https://www.healthline.com/health/ringworm
  13. How to stop ringworm spreading, in: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/ringworm/