Information on Ringworm
Ringworm is an extremely uncomfortable, often unsightly and sometimes difficult condition to treat. It is characterized by its circular shape, raised red appearance and itching (but not always). It can occur on the body, face or scalp. Ringworm is an easily spread condition that affects the lives of nearly 10 - 20% of people at some stage of their life.
Ringworm is caused by a fungus infection. Fungi are similar to plants however, plants are able to turn sunlight into food, whereas fungi cannot. Instead, they derive their food from living tissue, which includes human skin. The most common ringworm sufferers are children, but the condition can be contracted by anyone. Once you have contracted ringworm, it actually increases your likelihood of future infections.
What is Ringworm?
Ringworm, unlike its name suggests, is not a worm or caused by a worm. It is a fungal infection of the body, face or scalp. Ringworm is medically known as tinea corporis, and refers to a common group of fungal caused infections and their accompanying symptoms. It can be extremely uncomfortable and often a difficult condition to treat because it is highly contagious. Furthermore, outbreaks on visible parts of the body can be unsightly and embarrassing.
Ringworm is easily spread through contact with infected surfaces including floors, towels, clothing, people and pets. Given the right environment, well established fungal infections can be very persistent and hard to get rid of.
Men and women of all ages are at risk for ringworm, however, children are the most susceptible, with one study suggesting infection rates in some schools could be as high as 30%.
Generally, ringworm is classified according to where it appears on the body. The most common varieties include Tinea captis (scalp ringworm), Tinea corporis (skin or body ringworm), Tinea cruris (groin infection), Onychomycosis (Fungal nail infection) and Tinea pedis (athlete's foot).
Many people can be carriers of the spores without even displaying symptoms. This is more likely in adults due to the maturity of our immune system and how it protects against the development of fungal infections. However, the infection can still be transferred.
Symptoms vary from person to person based on the specific cause and severity of the infection. Depending on where the infection appears on the body will also affect the symptoms that are displayed. The most commonly experienced symptoms are a flat round lesion that looks scaly in appearance. As it develops, outwards, a raised outer edge will appear which will become red and scaly. The middle section appears more normal and can often be smooth.
Scalp ringworm is likely to show patches of scaly skin that may feel tender, inflamed and painful. Sufferers can even experience hair loss.
Additionally, more advanced bacterial infections will be accompanied by vesicles (blisters) located on the outer edge of the lesion.
What are the Causes and Characteristics of Ringworm?
The majority of ringworm infections are caused by a group of related fungi called dermatophytes are responsible for the development of ringworm. The most common being Trichophyton rubrum, Microsporum canis and Trichophyton mentagrophytes.
There are a number of risk factors for ringworm. These include age, social and housing conditions, proximity to infected people/pets, obesity, weakened immune system and previous fungal infections.
Being aware of how your ringworm develops and progresses is an important key to finding a solution for it. The kind of ringworm you suffer from will then determine the effectiveness of various available treatments.
How is Ringworm Diagnosed?
Many people self diagnose, however, it is always better to visit your doctor who will very easily be able to diagnose ringworm by looking at the infected area and asking questions about your medical history and lifestyle.
Because of the high degree of contagiousness, there is no single, foolproof way to prevent ringworm. If it is a serious recurring issue, your dermatologist may be able to identify a pattern of recurring infection along with the associated cause.
The most effective way to prevent ringworm is to avoid contact with infected people/pets, avoid walking around bare foot, wash clothes and towels in the affected household and never re-use towels, do not scratch the affected area and do not share personal items such as hairbrushes, combs, clothing etc.
In the event that you do contract a serious fungal infection, there are many treatments available, both over the counter and by prescription. Some pharmaceutical anti-fungal treatments are known to cause serious and uncomfortable side-effects, so it is always good to look for a risk-free all-natural alternative. And start treatment as soon as possible to reduce re-infection rates.
Ringworm is not a quick fix condition. It is not a condition that can, or should, be dealt with in a few treatments then forgotten. Attempts to do so will often result in an unsatisfying experience or recurring infections. For real and effective ringworm relief, be sure to choose the best treatment you can find and stick with it until your infection has completely cleared.