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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 areas clean. 

 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.

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