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Ringworm, also termed tinea, is a skin infection that’s triggered not by a worm but a fungal mold that survives on the dead tissues of human skin, nails, scalp and hair. The name is derived from the lesion caused by the ring-shaped infection that looks like a worm. The ring-shaped rash usually has a red center or normal skin texture inside the ring.

Ringworm affects both humans and animals, and can appear in any location of the body, particularly in warm and sweaty skin areas.

Ringworm Infection

Ringworm Infection

Image Source: Medical News Today

Symptoms of Ringworm

Depending on the site of the infection, ringworm can be classified into types known by different names:

1. Jock Itch or Tinea Cruris

  • Commonly known as the ringworm of the groin, it is the most common type of tinea.
  • Symptoms include occurrence of red, itchy and scaly patches of skin around the groin area and upper thighs.

2. Athlete’s foot or Tinea Pedis

  • Commonly known as the ringworm of the foot, it is the second most common type of tinea that could be caused on feet or toenails
  • Symptoms include redness, cracked or scaly skin, itching or even burning around skin on feet between toes. In some cases, the feet may produce a strong odour and toenails could crack too.

3. Ringworm of the Body or Tinea Corporis

  • Sites of infection include non-hairy skin of face, arms, legs, and trunk
  • Appearance of classic, ring-shaped patches with elevated worm-like borders

4. Ringworm of the Scalp or Tinea Capitis

  • Itchy, scaling of scalp similar to dandruff hair loss patches on the scalp
  • Itchy, scaly, round patches of hair loss on the scalp
  • Black-dot ringworm in which stubs of broken hair begin to form a dotted pattern on the scalp

5. Barber’s Itch or Tinea Barbae

  • Commonly known as the Ringworm of the beard, the infection affects bearded areas of face, chin, upper lip, and neck
  • Symptoms include dry/flaky skin, hair loss, skin discoloration, ringworm rashes that could even develop into blisters filled with pus

Causes of Ringworm

Ringworm infection is contagious and can be transmitted or contracted in the following ways.

● Person to Person Contact

Any person having a direct skin-to-skin contact with a person infected by a ringworm rash is likely to contract it.

● Animal Contact

 One can easily catch a ringworm rash from an infected animal by simply touching it. Pets such as cats, dogs and cows are common carriers of ringworm infection.

● Contaminated Objects

 Touching objects or surfaces used by a ringworm infected person or animal has a higher possibility of transmission. Possible objects of transmission could be towels, clothes, combs, brushes, bedding, and linen.

●  Soil

Although a rare way of transmission, prolonged exposure to highly ringworm infected soil could also cause ringworm infection in humans and animals alike.

Ringworm Infection Across Men, Women and Babies

Infection in Men

  • Jock itch most often affects adolescents and adult men who are obese or wear tight-fitting underwear
  • Barber’s itch is also commonly seen in adult men with bearded areas
  •  Ringworm of the body and Athlete’s foot are also commonly infected in adult men

Infection in Women

  • Women are mostly susceptible to infection of Ringworm of the body and Athlete’s foot

Infection in Babies

  • Ringworm of the Scalp is common among children aged between 3 and 9, especially who live in crowded shelters of urban areas.

Ringworm Diagnosis

  • One can self-diagnose a ringworm infection, but a doctor would be better placed to diagnose its severity through a preliminary medical examination of the affected site and learning about its symptoms from the patient.
  • The doctor shall ask a few questions to the patient about his/her lifestyle, recent exposure to ringworm affected persons, whether you walk barefoot in the locker room or gym areas, share your clothes and personal items.
  • The best way, indeed, for the doctor to diagnose any kind of fungal infection on skin like ringworm would be to scrape the infected area and get a microscopic vision of it.
  • If the symptoms pertain to scalp or beard, it is advisable to see a doctor before attempting any self-treatment.

Ringworm Treatment

Depending on the severity of the infection, ringworm treatment may go through several stages as mentioned below:

●  Non-prescriptive Topical Application:

A jock itch, athlete’s foot, and ringworm of the body can usually be treated with an antifungal lotion, cream, or powder comprising of active ingredients such as clotrimazole and terbinafine, that would not need a prescription and are easily available over the counter. Follow the directions carefully while applying the medication.

● Prescriptive Topical Application:

 If there’s no improvement in the rash symptoms even after two weeks, one must consult a doctor immediately. A doctor shall be able to suggest a prescription-based, topical, anti-fungal medication that could alleviate the infection.

● Oral medication:

In case of extremely severe infections or those pertaining to scalp, beard, or toenails- the doctor may prescribe an oral, antifungal medication and the recovery time could take about 2-3 months. Additionally, the doctor may also prescribe anti-fungal shampoos and lotions for hair and scalp.

Ringworm Home Remedies

Interestingly, topical application of certain herbs and their oils have been able to serve as effective home-based ringworm treatment.

1. Application of Essential oils

Essential oils such as coconut, tea tree, lemongrass can be applied twice or thrice a day over the infected area using a cotton ball. Coconut oil, particularly, is an excellent treatment for the Ringworm of the Scalp.

2. Raw Turmeric

Fresh ground turmeric with its curcumin, is not only a powerful anti-bacterial but also an effective anti-fungal that stems the infection growth. Apply the paste onto the infected skin and wash off once it dries away.

3. Aloe vera

Aloe vera is a natural panacea known for its antibacterial and antifungal properties. Application of fresh aloe vera gel soothes the inflammation and itchiness at the ringworm rash site.

4. Licorice:

Research studies have established that the anti-microbial licorice powder could also be a powerful anti-fungal alternative to cure ringworm infection. Applying a home-made licorice paste twice a day on the infection site for 10 minutes has shown effective results.

Preventing Ringworm

Prevention is better than cure and the following precautions must be followed in order to avoid a ringworm infection.

● Avoid sharing personal items:

 Do not share any personal belongings such as clothes, shoes, towels, soap, combs, bed, makeup brushes or any grooming items with anyone else. They are strictly for your personal use.

● Personal cleanliness:

Maintain personal hygiene regularly and thoroughly dry your body after a shower.

● Use soft fabrics:

Wear clean socks and underwear, preferably cotton-made. Ensure that you have an extra pair of clean socks to replace your sweaty socks post a workout session.

● Spare footwear:

Carry an extra pair of footwear to wear to walk through the locker rooms, shower or pool area.

● Regular check up for pets:

Get the pets at home regularly checked by a veterinarian to rule out any chance of ringworm infection caused to them.

● Extra set of personal items for kids:

Provide your kid with an extra set of sleeping bag, pillow and blanket from home for sleepover with his/her friends.

Conclusion

Most cases of ringworm usually get cured within a span of two weeks with minimal medication. Any negligence towards ringworm treatment could result in severe conditions that may then take upto 3 months to cure. Hence, wisdom lies in preventing the infection in the first place rather than neglecting those initial symptoms. However, to get severe conditions treated, it is advisable to have a good health insurance policy such as the ones available on Bajaj MARKETS to cover the cost of treatment and hospitalisation without burdening your pocket.

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