Ringworm (tinea corporis), also commonly referred to as dermatophytosis, dermatophyte infection, or tinea is a highly contagious fungal infection of the skin or scalp. Ringworm can affect anyone at any time in their life and is difficult to prevent. If you believe you have ringworm or any other skin condition, a dermatologist in Gainesville with our clinic, Gainesville Dermatology & Skin Surgery can help. Contact our Gainesville dermatologists today to schedule a dermatology appointment and to learn more about treatment for ringworm and other rashes.
What Is Ringworm?
Ringworm of the body is a rash caused by a fungal infection. "Ringworm" is a misnomer. A fungus (not a worm) causes the infection and gets its name from the worm-shaped ring that forms when the infection occurs. While ringworm typically describes ringworm of the body, it can also describe tinea infection in other locations. Tinea infection is related to ringworm on the scalp (tinea capitis); ringworm of the groin or jock itch (tinea cruris); and ringworm of the foot, or athlete's foot (tinea pedis). Early signs of this infection include red patches on affected areas of the skin, which may spread to other parts of the body. It can affect the scalp, beard, groin, feet, nails, and other body areas. Ringworm of the scalp is a highly contagious infection that usually appears as itchy, scaly, and bald patches on the head.
What Causes Ringworm?
The ringworm rash is a contagious fungal infection caused by common mold-like parasites that live on cells in the outer layer of the skin. Different types of fungi can also cause ringworm. This infection can spread by human-to-human transmission, object-to-human transmission, animal-to-human transmission, and soil-to-human transmission. Ringworm often spreads by direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected person (human to human). You can also contract ringworm by touching an animal infected with it. For Example, Ringworm is fairly common in cows and can spread while petting or grooming cats or dogs (animal to human). In addition, it is possible to contract ringworm through contact with objects or surfaces an infected person recently touched or rubbed against, like clothing, brushes, combs, linens, bedding, and towels (object to human). Though rare, ringworm can spread to humans by direct contact with infected soil. Infection would likely occur from prolonged contact with highly infected soil.
How Do You Get Ringworm
Among the primary causes of ringworm are human-to-human, animal-to-human, object-to-human, and (rarely) soil-to-human transmissions, but certain factors might make you more likely to contract ringworm. You are at a higher risk of contracting ringworm if the following applies to you. Fungal infections rarely spread below the skin's surface and cause serious illness, but those with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV or AIDS, may find it difficult to completely treat their fungal infection.
- You Live In A Warm Climate
- You Live In A Humid Climate
- You Have Close Contact With An Infected Person Or Animal
- You Share Clothing, Linens, Or Towels With Someone With A Fungal Infection
- You Participate In Sports Featuring Skin-To-Skin Contact
- You Wear Tight Or Restrictive Clothing
- You Have A Weak Immune System
Symptoms of ringworm vary depending on the infected site. With a skin infection, you may experience red, itchy, or scaly patches or raised plaques on the skin. The patches may then develop blisters or pustules. The patches may be redder on the outer edges or resemble a ring. Ringworm patches typically feature raised edges with a defined border. If you experience a ringworm infection in your nails, referred to as dermatophytic onychomycosis or tinea unguium, your nails can become discolored, thickened, or may crack. If your scalp is affected by ringworm, the hair around the affected area may break off or fall out, and bald patches will develop in those areas.
Ringworm of the scalp often starts as standalone scaling on the scalp that then develops into itchy, scaly, and bald patches of skin. Scalp ringworm is most common in children due to their constant, close proximity to potentially infected children, among other reasons. Ringworm of the body typically appears as reddened, raised skin patches with the characteristic round ring shape at the border. Jock itch is a ringworm infection of the skin located around the inner thighs, groin, and buttocks. This form of ringworm is most common among men and adolescent boys. Ringworm of the foot, or athlete's foot, is common for those who walk barefoot in public places with high infection rates, such as locker rooms, showers, and swimming pools.
Stages Of Ringworm
When you have a ringworm infection, it might take up to two weeks or more before you begin to notice the symptoms of a ringworm infection. During the initial stage, you may see a pink or red-colored rash or patch that is irritated on your skin. In some cases, the patch may appear very dry and scaly, with no redness at all, possibly leading you to believe it might not be a ringworm infection but another type of rash. During the second stage of ringworm, the lesions on your skin will start to grow larger. The center of the rash may look like healthy, normal skin, but the surrounding border is scaly, raised, red or pink in color, and inflamed. The patch also may be extremely itchy. As ringworm is so contagious, seeking treatment as soon as you notice any characteristic signs is imperative to preventing the growth and spread of the infection.
Our dermatologists in Gainesville, Fl, can often diagnose ringworm by carefully examining the infected area and other areas of your body to ensure the infection hasn't spread to other parts of your body. With ringworm on the hands or the feet, it's common to have rashes on both hands or both feet. When it infects the nails, it's common for the infection to spread to more than one nail. To accurately diagnose cases of ringworm, your dermatologist may take a sample of the infected hair, skin, or nail and send it to the laboratory for further testing. If over-the-counter treatments don't work, you may require prescription-strength antifungal medications, such as ringworm cream, lotion, or ointment.
If your infection is particularly severe or extensive, your doctor may prescribe an oral antifungal ringworm medicine. In mild cases of ringworm, try to keep the affected area clean and dry. Additionally, you should apply an over-the-counter antifungal lotion, cream, or ointment, as directed by your dermatologist. If ringworm is left untreated, it can spread to other body areas and other individuals around the infected person. Other potential complications from untreated ringworm include hair loss, scarring, and nail deformities. Complications associated with ringworm of the scalp are particularly worrisome, as the infection can result in permanent hair loss. With knowledge of these possible, severe complications, it's best to seek treatment for ringworm as quickly as possible.
Is Ringworm Contagious?
Extremely. Anyone can develop ringworm, but the infection is most common among children, parents with infected children, and some pet owners. Both cats and dogs can become infected with ringworm and pass it on to humans who pet them. If you suspect your pet has ringworm, bring them to your veterinarian. SIn pets, signs of ringworm can include hairless skin patches that appear circular, crusty, or scaly patches on the skin, patches with some brittle or broken hairs, and opaque or white-colored areas around the claws.
Skin is most susceptible to developing ringworm while soft and wet from prolonged exposure to water or if the skin has minor skin injuries or scrapes. Those who frequent public pools and showers, those who walk around barefoot, and those who share hair brushes, clothing, and linens with others have a high risk of developing this infection.
While not all instances of ringworm infection can be avoided, practicing safe, healthy, and hygienic behaviors can help you prevent contracting ringworm. Infections can occur from contact with animals and a lack of proper hygiene. To best prevent becoming infected with ringworm, consider the following tips. Contact our Gainesville, FL, dermatologists at Gainesville Dermatology & Skin Surgery to learn more about minimizing your exposure to ringworm and to schedule a dermatologist appointment.
- Wash Your Hands After Interacting With Animals
- Disinfect And Clean Pet Living Areas
- Avoid Contact With People & Animals If Your Immune System Is Weak
- Wear Shoes If Showering Or Walking In Community Environments
- Don't Share Personal Items, Such As Hair Brushes & Clothing, With Others
- Keep Your Skin Clean & Dry
- Keep Abrasion & Skin Injuries Covered, Clean & Dry