What Is Ringworm? How to Identify and Treat This Common Fungal Infection

My sister’s friend came over one day and proudly declared, “Check this out. I have ringworm.” I instinctively recoiled and suddenly wanted to be as far away from her as possible. Indeed, the name “ringworm” strikes fear in the hearts of all who hear it; but, really, “ringworm” is a misnomer because this skin condition is not actually a parasitic worm at all! Affecting 10 to 20% of the general population, ringworm is a fungal skin infection that causes a circular, red, scaly rash with wavy, raised edges.

Admittedly, it does look a little like a worm biting its own tail! Yet, you needn’t feel overly grossed out by it. Ringworm is actually the same exact infection as “jock itch” and “athlete’s foot” — except that it is not just confined to a person’s nether-regions or feet. Ringworm generally affects the scalp, nails, arms, legs, or face. Like any fungus, it can spread easily.


The center of ringworm usually does not appear affected by the red raised rash, hence the name. Image Source: WikiHow.com

How Do I Know It’s Ringworm?

Kim Kardashian visited a dermatologist in 2011 — just before a commercial shoot and upcoming (albeit, short-lived) wedding to NBA player Kris Humphries. “Khloe seems to think I have ringworm,” she told the doctor, revealing itchy, red spots on her leg. It turns out, she had a hereditary skin condition called psoriasis instead. According to RightDiagnosis.com, ringworm is often misdiagnosed.

Similar conditions may include:

– Psoriasis
– Impetigo
– Seborrheic dermatitis
– Secondary syphillis
– Pityriasis rosea
– Erythema multiforme
– Nummular eczema
Granuloma annulare
– Bacterial folliculitis
– Discoid lupus erythematous

If your skin condition doesn’t improve within two weeks, a doctor can make a diagnosis of tinea corporis (ringworm) by taking a small, painless skin scraping from the rash and looking at it under a microscope using a potassium hydroxide test.

How Does A Person Get Ringworm?

Ringworm is caused by a dermatophyte fungus, which feeds on our body’s keratin protein. These microscopic spores can survive on the surface of the skin for months. They also thrive on towels, combs, soil, bed sheets, and shoes. People most commonly pick up ringworm from another infected person or pet. Athletes involved in contact sports get this condition often, as do young children. People with compromised immune systems are at an increased risk of developing a fungal skin infection.

ringworm sources

As cute as they may be, your outdoor pets can easily come into contact with the ringworm fungus. Image Source: SFGate.com

Does Ringworm Go Away On Its Own?

Ringworm doesn’t usually go away on its own, but the good news is that it’s easily treated. Generally, body ringworm is treated with topical antifungal preparations like Spectazole, Lotrimin, Mycelex, or Monistat-Derm. Lesions on the scalp or more widespread infections encompassing multiple body parts or the nails are usually treated with the antifungal drug griseofulvin (Fulvicin, Grisactin) or itraconazole (Sporanox). These drugs are taken once or twice daily for about two months. Initial side effects may include diarrhea, headache, indigestion, nausea and vomiting — but usually go away.

Antifungal shampoo can be used twice a week to ease itching, but is not an effective treatment on its own. Pregnant women should not take oral antifungals and women who are trying to conceive should wait at least a month after their treatment has stopped to avoid the risk of birth defects. Patients taking oral contraceptives should use back-up birth control while taking griseofulvin. Clotrimazole (Lotrimin) topical cream is generally considered to be safe to take while pregnant.

ringworm recurrence

Avoid sharing towels or clothing with others to prevent ringworm transmission or recurrence. Also, buy a SteriShoe UV shoe sanitizer to disinfect your footwear! Image Source: WikiHow.com

SteriShoe Helps Prevent Ringworm Recurrence

The problem with ringworm and other types of skin fungi is that it’s not only easily spread, but it can also return quickly if you’re not careful. The SteriShoe UV shoe sanitizer is designed to help people suffering from ringworm on the feet or toenails, as well as athlete’s foot or toenail fungus. A 45-minute UV light treatment with our device will kill up to 99.9% of the fungi living in your footwear.

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