Everyone is familiar with ringworm on the scalp. It is important to understand that ringworm can appear on any part of the body. Ringworm is a common infection. It is actually a fungus infection on the upper layer of the skin, actually on the dead surface of the skin. It is similar to other fungus infections on the skin.
Ringworm on the body (tinea corporis) starts as a small pinkish mark, often roundish or oval. It is the round shape that gave the infection part of its name. The worm part of the name came from the long-dead belief that the infection was caused by a worm. There is not worm involved in ringworm. Nothing is crawling around on or under the skin.
Ringworm can occur in anyone, at any time in life, but appears most commonly in children. Those with compromised immune systems are also likely to become infected. Ringworm is very contagious, and can pass from human to human, and also from animal to human. It can be transmitted from person to person, directly, through infected objects, or through the sharing of combs and other similar objects. It can also be passed on from the bedding or clothing of an infected individual.
The most common symptom of ringworm is itching. The skin around the ‘ring’ may be slightly inflamed and raised, but the area in the center always appears normal. There may be several areas of infection on the body and the rings may even overlap.
Because ringworm spreads rapidly and is so contagious, it is important to seek medical attention immediately, if you have any skin condition that causes you concern. The condition may or may not be ringworm, but whatever it is will respond more rapidly, if treated promptly.
A physician may be able to make a diagnosis simply by viewing the skin, but in order to make a definitive diagnosis, and rule our the possibility of other skin infections, he/she may wish to take a skin scraping. This procedure is quite painless. The scraping will be viewed under a microscope. Occasionally the scraping may need to be tested in a lab.
Treatments for ringworm involve topical medications applied directly to the affected area, or oral medications, for more serious cases. Infections usually clear up within a few weeks. Even though visual symptoms may disappear quickly, it is important to continue treatment as long as prescribed, or the infection may return.
In order to lessen chances of contracting ringworm, it is wise to always keep the skin clean and dry, avoid contact with animals, with which you are not familiar, and do not share personal items.
In addition to ringworm on the body in general, other forms of ringworm include ringworm on the scalp, athletes foot, and ‘jock itch’.