Ringworm is a contagious infection that usually affects the scalp, the feet
(athlete's foot), the groin, or the nails, but it can affect any part of the
body. It comes from a fungus transmitted by humans and animals, not from worms!
People get ringworm from direct skin-to-skin contact with another infected person
or a pet or by indirect contact with an object or surface that an infected person
or pet has touched. Ringworm is generally easily treated with over-the-counter
or prescription anti-fungal medicines. To prevent the spread of ringworm, make
sure all infected persons and pets get appropriate treatment, avoid contact
with infected persons and pets, do not share personal items (especially towels
or bedding, clothing, hairbrushes, stuffed animals, etc.), clean all clothing
or objects that have come into contact with the fungus, and keep common-use
Ringworm of the scalp usually begins as a small pimple that becomes larger,
leaving scaly patches of temporary baldness. Infected hairs become brittle and
break off easily. Yellowish crusty areas sometimes develop. Ringworm of the
body looks like a flat, round patch anywhere on the skin except for the scalp
and feet. The groin is a common area of infection. As the rash gradually expands,
its center clears to produce a ring. More than one patch might appear, and the
patches can overlap. The area is sometimes itchy.
Ringworm of the foot is better known as "athlete's foot". It appears as a scaling
or cracking of the skin, especially between the toes. Ringworm of the nails
causes the affected nails to become thicker, discolored, and brittle, or to
become chalky and disintegrate.
Ringworm is usually diagnosed by its characteristic appearance, although there
are specific tests your doctor can do if there's any doubt.
Anyone can get ringworm. Scalp Ringworm often affects young children, and outbreaks
are common in schools, day-care centers, and camps. Children with young pets
are also at increased risk for ringworm of the body.
Created: 9/11/2003  - Donnica Moore, M.D.