Ringworm is a fungal infection on the skin that is characterized by a red, circular rash with clear skin in the middle. There are many forms of ringworm, including ringworm of the head (tinea capitis), jock itch (tinea cruris), athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) and ringworm of the body (tinea corporis). The infection is caused by a type of fungi, called dermatophytes, which live off dead skin cells, hair cells and nail cells. The infection is not caused by a worm, but gets its name from the circular shape of the rash. Ringworm is more common in children, but it is still possible for adults to be infected. Ringworm of the scalp can be spread by sharing hats or combs and ringworm of the body can be spread on towels and clothing.
The main symptom of ringworm is an area of flat, red and scaly skin that can become itchy. As time goes on, the patch of scaly skin develops a circular raised border that grows in size. A person can get a ringworm infection from another infected person, from an infected animal or from an infected object. Risk factors include being a child younger than 15 years, living in damp or crowded conditions, sharing clothing or bedding with someone with an infection, participating in sports with skin to skin contact, or wearing tight or restricted clothing. A doctor can usually diagnose ringworm just by looking at the infected area. Sometimes, looking at a scraping of the affected area under the microscope may be needed to confirm the diagnosis. Over-the-counter antifungal lotions and creams are enough to treat mild cases of ringworm. Some severe cases may need oral antifungal pills. If you or your child have been diagnosed with ringworm, talk with your doctor to decide which treatment is best for you.