Ringworm can be quite embarrassing for an individual. It appears as a round, red and scaly patch of skin, which can then spread outwards. It can form in various parts of the body. On the scalp, sore patches of scaly skin will begin to appear and it may even cause patchy hair loss. In extreme cases, the scalp may begin to crust and small, pus-filled sores will start to appear. This inflamed sore is called a kerion. Across the body, rings may spread and start to merge together.
When it forms between your toes, this is commonly known as athlete's foot, and it may cause cracked skin, blisters, swelling and a stinging sensation in the skin. If this spreads to your nails, they may thicken, discolour (turning to white, yellow, black or green), become brittle and even fall off.
But what actually causes it? Well, ringworm is a skin infection that is brought about by fungi called dermatophytes. These fungi live off keratin, a tough tissue that is found in your skin, nails and hair, hence why ringworm is so common on your skin, nails and scalp. These tiny spores can be spread through humans contacting with other humans, infected animals, contaminated objects and even infected soil. Some studies have suggested a genetic link, as adults can carry ringworm without developing any symptoms and then pass the condition onto their children.
To treat ringworm, there is a large variety of tablets, antifungal creams and shampoo products available. You need to make sure that you wash the areas of affected skin daily, ensuring that you dry the skin thoroughly afterwards so as not to create a breeding ground for the fungi. Pay close attention to skin folds and in between the toes. Wear loose-fitted clothes and wash towels and bed sheets regularly. For feet infections, change your socks daily as fungi can remain in skin flakes. Never share hats or hairbrushes if your scalp is affected.
The required treatment will depend on the type of ringworm you have:
- Scalp ringworm can be treated using a combination of antifungal tablets, such as terbinafine and griseofulvin, and an antifungal shampoo. The latter will not cure ringworm, but prevent the infection from spreading. These shampoos will contain selenium sulphide and ketoconazole, and they should be used twice a week during the first two weeks of treatment. They are available from your pharmacist.
- Body ringworm is usually solved by quick application of antifungal creams, gels and sprays, especially in the first two weeks. If symptoms do not changed after two weeks, visit your GP. Itraconazole tablets can also be taken.
- Nail infections can be treated via antifungal nail paint or tablets; the latter of which tend to work better.
Ringworm can often cause many people distress. Not only is there the fear that it will never go away but people can become anxious about how they look, especially if the condition is in a visible place. However, be aware that it can be easily treated as long as you act fast.