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Synonyms: Tinea corpis 

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Overview of ringworm

Ringworm is a term used to refer to the skin condition that is characterized by the formation of reddened, elevated circular or oval patches with unaffected central areas giving the appearance of a ring. One or more such areas or rings may be noticed in the affected individuals. This is caused due to a fungal infection of the skin and commonly affects scalp (tinea capitis) or the skin over the body other than bearded area, scalp, groin, hands or feet (tinea corporis). It has been observed that such infections affect about 10–20% of the individuals at least once in their lifetime. These infections may be observed both in adults and children.1,2


Causes of ringworm

Ringworm is a fungal infection usually caused by dermatophytes that belong to the species of Trichophyton, Epidermophyton and Microsporum and are commonly referred to as tinea. The tinea infection can occur through direct contact with the infected individuals. Other sources of infection are infected animals, soil or fomites. These fungi cause inflammation of the affected areas resulting in the characteristic ring formation on the skin.2,3

Tinea infection may also be noted in other areas in the body wherein they are named based on the area affected as follows

  • Beard area (tinea barbae)
  • Groin, perineum and perineal areas (tinea cruris)
  • Feet (tinea pedis)
  • Hands (tinea manuum)
  • Nails (tinea unguium)1  

Signs and symptoms of ringworm

Tinea capitis also referred as ‘ringworm of the scalp’ is commonly noted in school going children. This fungal infection is characterized by circular patches of hair loss on the scalp that may or may not be associated with inflammation of the scalp. At times, nonspecific dandruff formation may be the only visible sign of tinea capitis. Ringworm of the body or tinea corporis affects both children and adults residing in hot and humid climates. The skin all over the body except the scalp, bearded area, groin, hands and feet may be affected by this infection. Tinea corporis is characterized by the raised reddish rings on the skin that are often asymptomatic and spread rapidly. These areas may at times be infected by bacteria resulting in formation of pus filled eruptions.1,2 


Diagnosis of ringworm

The diagnosis of ringworm infection is based on the signs and symptoms observed. Additionally, specific tests known as the Wood’s light examination and observation of the skin scrapped from the affected areas under a microscope may be performed to confirm the diagnosis. In certain long-standing cases a culture test of the affected skin may be advised.1


Treatment of ringworm

Tinea infections are generally treated with the administration of antifungal agents either in the form of tablets or skin creams/lotions. Commonly advised antifungal agents include griseofulvin, terbinafine, itraconazole and fluconazole. Antifungal creams or lotions are advised to be applied over the affected areas in mild cases while the tablets are advised in moderate-to-severe cases of tinea infection. The dosage, type and duration of the tablets are decided by the doctor based on the extent of the infection.1   


Complications of ringworm

Tinea infections are generally not associated with any severe complications. However, scarring and permanent hair loss may be noted in severe cases of tinea capitis. Secondary infection of the affected areas may also be noted that result in formation of pus-filled eruptions that may be painful and itchy. Tines infections may at times relapse after sometime.


Prevention of ringworm

Avoiding direct contact with the infected adults or children can prevent one from being infected. Early identification and treatment is necessary to prevent complications.  

Written by: Healthplus24 team
Date last updated: March 10, 2013

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