Contrary to its name, ringworm does not actually have any association with worms. Ringworm is a fungal condition which is so-called because it often causes a ring shaped pink rash on the surface of the skin. Ringworm is very common and affects 1 in 5 people at some point in their lives. There are many different types of ringworm infection; they are named according to where on the body they occur; the most common ringworm infections include tinea capitis (on the scalp), tinea cruris (in the groin), tinea corporis (on the skin); other types of ringworm infection include fungal nail infections (common on the toenails) and athlete’s foot.
How is ringworm spread?
Ringworm is contagious and it can be spread via skin to skin contact (with animals and humans) and indirect contact via objects and surfaces.
Ringworm risk factors
Several groups of people are more prone to developing ringworm infections; these include:
- Young children
- The elderly
- Overweight and obese people
- Afro-Caribbean people (especially for ringworm of the scalp)
- People with conditions which affect the immune system
- People with a history of fungal infections
Symptoms of ringworm
The most obvious sign of ringworm on the body is the ring shaped rash that develops on the skin; other symptoms include itchy skin underneath the ring and a growth of the ring. Ringworm on the scalp usually causes the skin to become itchy, tender and flaky and the hair surrounding the affected area may start to fall out. Ringworm in the groin usually causes the skin to become itchy, red and scaly around the groin and on the inner thighs; the patient may also feel a burning sensation around the infection.
Scalp ringworm is usually treated using a course of antifungal medication; the type of medication will depend on the type of fungi that has caused the infection. Ringworm on the body and groin are usually treated using over the counter creams; you should ask your pharmacist for advice on which cream to choose.