What Does Ring Worm Look Like In A Human?

Learn how to spot ringworm, a common fungal infection of the skin affecting many people.

What is ringworm?

Ringworm or Tinea as it is officially called, is a common fungal infection affecting the skin. Despite it's name, it has nothing to do with a worm. Because the fungi that cause ringworm infections are present everywhere, it is difficult to prevent from infecting humans. Children are most susceptible to ringworm infections, although adults can become infected as well. Infections among children appear to be on the rise, although it is not certain why this is happening.

Several types of fungi are responsible for causing ringworm infections in different parts of the body including the scalp, skin of the body, groin, and feet. Fingernails and toenails may be affected as well. Ringworm infections in the groin are commonly called jock itch, while infections in the feet are called athlete's foot. Ringworm may affect several parts of the body at the same time. Or, it may affect only one part.

The fungus "feeds†on dead skin cells and thrives under moist, warm conditions. It is spread through skin-to-skin contact with infected persons or by items such as hairbrushes, dirty towels, or locker room floors. A ringworm infection can also be caused by contact with family pets such as cats and dogs that harbor the fungi on the skin under their fur. The fungi that cause ringworm of the body are also found in soil.



Ringworm infection on the body occurs within 4 to 10 days of contact with an infected person or animal or where fungi are present in the soil. On the scalp the incubation period is longer, approximately 10 to 14 days. Diagnosis by a physician is usually made based on the appearance on the skin or scalp. In some cases a culture is taken of the affected area. Another method of diagnosing ringworm is to look at the affected area under an ultraviolet light. The skin will glow in areas where the fungus is present.

What does it look like?

Ringworm on the skin of the body, which is called Tinea corporis, presents itself as a flat, round scaly patch or rash on the surface of the skin most commonly on the face, trunk, and legs. It ranges in size from about the size of a dime to larger than the size of a silver dollar. There may be one patch or several overlapping ones. As the fungus spreads, the outer edge of the circle may turn red while the interior appears to be normal skin color. The red ring may look like a series of small bumps or blisters. Ringworm sometimes looks very similar to eczema, especially in the beginning stages. Ringworm is also itchy.

Ringworm on the scalp (Tinea capitis) manifests itself in a slightly different manner, generally starting out as a pimple-like lesion. As it progresses, bald patches may appear as the hair strands becomes brittle and break off.

How is it cured?

Although it is contagious, it is not a serious infection. However, it should be treated to avoid complications caused by scratching it. Once ringworm is diagnosed, it can usually be treated at home using an over the counter anti-fungal cream or tea tree oil, a natural anti-fungal treatment. Ringworm of the scalp requires prescribed oral medication as well as the use of anti-fungal shampoos.

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