What is ringworm?

After playing basketball, or any kind of sports, we usually take a shower. Unfortunately these locker rooms and public showers are hotbeds of many kind of skin diseases. One of them is ringworm, which is caused by a fungi. It can appear almost everywhere in our skin, even at our scalps. What is this ringworm actually is?


Dermatophytosis or ringworm is a clinical condition caused by fungal infection of the skin in humans, pets such as cats, and domesticated animals such as sheep and cattle. The term “ringworm” is a misnomer, since the condition is caused by fungi of several different species and not by parasitic worms. The fungi that cause parasitic infection (dermatophytes) feed on keratin, the material found in the outer layer of skin, hair, and nails. These fungi thrive on skin that is warm and moist, but may also survive directly on the outsides of hair shafts or in their interiors. In pets, the fungus responsible for the disease survives in skin and on the outer surface of hairs.

It has been estimated that currently up to twenty percent of the population may be infected by ringworm or one of the other dermatophytoses. It is especially common among people who play sports, wrestling in particular. Wrestlers( http://www.academia.edu/2193375/Prevalence_of_Fungal_Skin_Infections_in_Iranian_Wrestlers ) with ringworm may be withheld from competition until their skin condition is deemed non-infectious by the proper authorities.

How does it look like? There are different appearances, but mostly infections on the body may give rise to typical enlarging raised red rings of ringworm, infection on the skin of the feet may cause athlete’s foot and in the groin jock itch. Involvement of the nails is termed onychomycosis, and they may thicken, discolour, and finally crumble and fall off.

infected athete's foot

They are common in most adult people, with up to 20 percent of the population having one of these infections at any given moment.

Dermatophytosis tends to get worse during summer, with symptoms alleviating during the winter. Animals such as dogs and cats can also be affected by ringworm and the disease can be transmitted between animals and humans (zoonotic disease).


As I have mentioned, unfortunately ringworm can appear almost everywhere on our skins.( http://www.meddean.luc.edu/lumen/MedEd/medicine/dermatology/melton/skinlsn/sknlsn.htm ) What are the most common types of this skin disease? What are the sypthoms?

  • Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis).( http://pediatrics.med.nyu.edu/conditions-we-treat/conditions/athletes-foot ) This common condition mostly affects teen and adult males. It less frequently affects children before puberty.( http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/puberty.htm ) Contributing causes include sweating,( http://umm.edu/Health/Medical/Ency/Articles/Sweating ) not drying the feet well after swimming or bathing, wearing tight socks and shoes, and warm weather conditions. Symptoms of athlete’s foot may include:
    • Whitening of the skin between the toes
    • Scaling of the feet
    • Itchy rash on the feet
    • Blisters on the feet
  • Jock itch (tinea cruris).( http://goaskalice.columbia.edu/jock-itch-treatments ) Ringworm may be hard to cure. This condition is also more common in males and occurs more often during warm weather conditions. It is very rare in females. Symptoms of jock itch may include:
    • Red, ring-like patches in the groin area
    • Itching in the groin area
    • Pain in the groin area
    • Does not usually involve the scrotum
  • Scalp ringworm (tinea capitis). ( http://hardinmd.lib.uiowa.edu/tineacapitis.html )Scalp ringworm is highly contagious, especially among children. It occurs mainly in children between the ages of 2 to 10. It rarely occurs in adults. Symptoms of scalp ringworm may include:
    • Red, scaly rash on the scalp
    • Itching of the scalp
    • Hair loss on the scalp
    • Rash elsewhere on the body

scalp ringworm


Ringworm of the scalp can also develop into a kerion, a large, tender lesion over the area of the initial ringworm. This is caused by a hypersensitivity to the ringworm and may be associated with a rash elsewhere and tender lymph nodes in the neck.

  • Nail infection (tinea unguium). (http://www.students.vcu.edu/health/docs/Onychomycosis.pdf )An infection of the finger or toe nail, this type is characterized by a thickened, deformed nail. This condition more often affects the toenails than the fingernails. It occurs more often in adolescents and adults rather than young children. Symptoms of nail ringworm may include:
    • Thickening of the ends of the nails
    • Yellow color to the nails
  • Body ringworm (tinea corporis). ( http://anagen.ucdavis.edu/144/infections/pseudoscle/hsu.html )This skin infection is characterized by a ring-like rash anywhere on the body or the face. It occurs in all ages, but is seen more frequently in children. It is more common in warmer climates. The symptoms of body ringworm may include:
    • Red, circular lesion with raised edges
    • The middle of the lesion may become less red as the lesion grows
    • Itching of the affected area

Source: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/dermatology/tinea_infections_ringworm_85,P00310/


In case of you have a suspicion of being infected with ringworm, you have to visit your doctor and ask for a special treatment. A single ringworm patch on the body can be treated with an over-the-counter cream recommended by your pediatrician. A small amount is applied two or three times a day for at least a week, during which time some clearing should begin. If there are any patches on the scalp or more than one on the body, or if the rash is getting worse while being treated, check with your pediatrician again. She will prescribe a stronger medication and, in the case of scalp ringworm, will use an oral antifungal preparation.

Source: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/skin/pages/Ringworm.aspx

Risk factors for developing ringworm include:

  • Contact with surfaces (eg, seat backs, shower stalls), clothing, or personal grooming items used by an infected person
  • Skin-to-skin contact with an infected person or pet
  • Age: 12 or younger—ringworm of the scalp rarely occurs in children after puberty or in adults
  • Spending time in nurseries, schools, daycare centers, or locker rooms

We can take steps, and we have to, in order to stop this awful disease.

The following steps may prevent ringworm:

  • Avoid contact with any infected person, animal, surface, or object.
  • Do not share personal hair grooming items, clothing, or shoes.
  • Wear sandals in locker room areas.
  • Avoid scratching during infection, to prevent ringworm from spreading to other areas.
  • Wear clothing that minimizes sweating and moisture build-up.
  • Wear breathable shoes or sandals.
  • Keep moisture-prone areas of the body clean and dry.

Source: http://pediatrics.med.nyu.edu/conditions-we-treat/conditions/ringworm