Ringworm is defined as a type of skin infection that can occur on the skin and is caused by a fungus. Someone can have one single patch of ringworm or several different patches from the same or different types of fungal infections. It is extremely common, one of the more common types of skin infections, and is more common to occur in children. The shape of ringworm skin infections is where it gets its name from; not actual worms.

Causes of Ringworm

Ringworm occurs when some of the fungi or bacteria in your body grows and multiplies on your skin. This fungi is always in your body but it isn’t until it multiplies, that it can cause skin conditions like ringworm. Ringworm is common in the scalp, groin area, feet, body, or beard. In the feet it is known as athlete’s foot, while in the groin it is called jock itch. Ringworm is contagious and can be spread easily so you should be careful to stay away from others when you have it. It can be passed through physical contact, unwashed clothing, shower surfaces, and brushes or combs. Cats also tend to carry ringworm and pass it on to humans.

Symptoms of Ringworm

There are a variety of signs and symptoms of ringworm you should look out for. Common symptoms include red, raised, itchy, and possibly scaly patches of skin that might also be oozing or have blisters, red and itchy patches that have sharp and defined edges, and the red patches might also be redder on the outside as opposed to the inside making them look like a ring or worm. Ringworm on areas of your body where you get hair may also cause bald patches. If you get ringworm on or near your nails, they can become brittle, thick, discolored, and possibly crumble.

Diagnosing Ringworm

A simple physical examination is usually enough to diagnose ringworm. Doctors know what to look for and further tests aren’t necessary. A blue light used in a dark room, called a Wood’s Lamp, can also be used for examining your skin. There might be tests done to confirm the ringworm diagnosis, including a KOH exam, skin biopsy, or a skin culture.

Treating Ringworm

In most cases, you can care for ringworm at home though your doctor might provide you with a prescription or recommend over-the-counter treatments. You should always keep your skin clean and dry, especially in the area where you have ringworm. Over-the-counter products for treating ringworm include a lotion, cream, or drying powder with antifungal properties and ingredients like miconazole or clotrimazole. Avoid wearing clothing that will rub against the area of skin with ringworm and wash your sheets daily until the ringworm goes away.

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