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Ringworm is a common fungal infection of the skin. The name is a misnomer since the disease is not caused by a worm.


More common in males than in females, ringworm is characterized by patches of rough, reddened skin. Raised eruptions usually form the circular pattern that gives the condition its name. Ringworm may also be referred to as dermatophyte infection.
As lesions grow, the centers start to heal. The inflamed borders expand and spread the infection.

Types of ringworm

Ringworm is a term that is commonly used to encompass several types of fungal infection. Sometimes, however, only body ringworm is classified as true ringworm.
Body ringworm (tinea corporis) can affect any part of the body except the scalp, feet, and facial area where a man's beard grows. The well-defined, flaky sores can be dry and scaly or moist and crusty.
Scalp ringworm (tinea capitis) is most common in children. It causes scaly, swollen blisters or a rash that looks like black dots. Sometimes inflamed and filled with pus, scalp ringworm lesions can cause crusting, flaking, and round bald patches. Most common in black children, scalp ringworm can cause scarring and permanent hair loss.
Ringworm of the groin (tinea cruris or jock itch) produces raised red sores with well-marked edges. It can spread to the buttocks, inner thighs, and external genitals.
Ringworm of the nails (tinea unguium) generally starts at the tip of one or more toenails, which gradually thicken and discolor. The nail may deteriorate or pull away from the nail bed. Fingernail infection is far less common.

Causes and symptoms

Ringworm can be transmitted by infected people or pets or by towels, hairbrushes, or other objects contaminated by them. Symptoms include inflammation, scaling, and sometimes, itching.
Diabetes mellitus increases susceptibility to ringworm. So do dampness, humidity, and dirty, crowded living areas. Braiding hair tightly and using hair gel also raise the risk.


Diagnosis is based on microscopic examination of scrapings taken from lesions. A dermatologist may also study the scalp of a patient with suspected tinea capitis under ultraviolet light.


Some infections disappear without treatment. Others respond to such topical antifungal medications as naftifine (Caldesene Medicated Powder) or tinactin (Desenex) or to griseofulvin (Fulvicin), which is taken by mouth. Medications should be continued for two weeks after lesions disappear.
A person with body ringworm should wear loose clothing and check daily for raw, open sores. Wet dressings applied to moist sores two or three times a day can lessen inflammation and loosen scales. The doctor may suggest placing special pads between folds of infected skin, and anything the patient has touched or worn should be sterilized in boiling water.
Infected nails should be cut short and straight and carefully cleared of dead cells with an emery board.
Patients with jock itch should:
  • wear cotton underwear and change it more than once a day
  • keep the infected area dry
  • apply antifungal ointment over a thin film of antifungal powder
Shampoo containing selenium sulfide can help prevent spread of scalp ringworm, but prescription shampoo or oral medication is usually needed to cure the infection.

Alternative treatment

The fungal infection ringworm can be treated with homeopathic remedies. Among the homeopathic remedies recommended are:
  • sepia for brown, scaly patches
  • tellurium for prominent, well-defined, reddish sores
  • graphites for thick scales or heavy discharge
  • sulphur for excessive itching.
Topical applications of antifungal herbs and essential oils also can help resolve ringworm. Tea tree oil (Melaleuca spp.), thuja (Thuja occidentalis), and lavender (Lavandula officinalis) are the most common. Two drops of essential oil in 1/4 oz of carrier oil is the dose recommended for topical application. Essential oils should not be applied to the skin undiluted. Botanical medicine can be taken internally to enhance the body's immune response. A person must be susceptible to exhibit this overgrowth of fungus on the skin. Echinacea(Echinacea spp.) and astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) are the two most common immune-enhancing herbs. A well-balanced diet, including protein, complex carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables, and good quality fats, is also important in maintaining optimal immune function.


Ringworm can usually be cured, but recurrence is common. Chronic infection develops in one patient in five.
It can take six to 12 months for new hair to cover bald patches, and three to 12 months to cure infected fingernails. Toenail infections do not always respond to treatment.


Likelihood of infection can be lessened by avoiding contact with infected people or pets or contaminated objects and staying away from hot, damp places.



"Ringworm." YourHealth.com Page. April 7, 1998. 〈http://www.yourhealth.com〉.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


the popular name for tinea, a fungal infection of the skin, even though it is not caused by a worm and is not always ring-shaped in appearance. (See types under tinea.) It is caused by a group of related fungi that feed on the body's waste products of dead skin and perspiration; they attack the skin in various areas, especially body folds such as the armpit and crotch. One type found between the toes is tinea pedis or athlete's foot; another affects the soles and toenails. Some forms, usually found in children and traceable to exposure to infected pets, attack the scalp or exposed areas of the body such as the arms or legs. These infections appear as reddish patches, often scaly or blistered, with itching, soreness, and sometimes destruction of hair shafts. They may become ring-shaped as the infection spreads out while its center heals or seems to heal.

The fungi are highly contagious and are spread by humans, animals, and even objects, such as combs or towels handled by infected persons. Scratching is almost certain to pass the infection from one part of the body to another.

Ringworm is treated with antifungal drugs. Prevention is largely a matter of cleanliness. All parts of the body should be washed with soap and water, especially hairy areas and body folds where perspiration is likely to collect. Thorough drying is as important as bathing, for the fungi thrive in warm dampness.
Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.


A fungus infection (dermatophytosis) of the keratin component of hair, skin, or nails. Genera of fungi causing such infection are Microsporum, Trichophyton, and Epidermophyton.
Synonym(s): ringworm, serpigo (1)
[L. worm, moth]
Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012


Any of a number of contagious skin diseases caused by several related fungi, characterized by ring-shaped, scaly, itching patches on the skin and generally classified by the location on the body. Also called tinea.
The American Heritage® Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2007, 2004 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
A skin infection by mould-like fungi known as dermatophytes—e.g., Trichophyton rubrum, T mentagrophytes, Microsporium canis, M gypsum, rarely also Epidermophyton spp; in children, T canis is the most common agent
DiffDx Nonfungal dermatopathies—e.g., erythema annulare, ‘herald patch’ of pityriasis rosea, atopic dermatitis, other dermatitides
Management Most resolve without therapy—otherwise, miconazole; if severe, griseofulvin
Segen's Medical Dictionary. © 2012 Farlex, Inc. All rights reserved.


Tinea corporis, dermatophytid; dermatophytosis Dermatology A skin infection by mold-like fungi known as dermatophytes–eg, Trichophyton rubrum, T mentagrophytes, Microsporium canis, M gypsum, rarely also Epidermophyton; in children, T canis is the most common agent Clinical types Tinea corporis; tinea capitis–scalp; tinea cruris–groin, aka jock itch; tinea pedis–feet, aka athlete's foot DiffDx Nonfungal dermatopathies–eg, erythema annulare, 'herald patch' of pityriasis rosea, atopic dermatitis, other dermatitides Treatment Most resolve without therapy; otherwise, miconazole, if severe, griseofulvin. See Black dot ringworm, Gray patch ringworm, Tinea capitis, Tinea corporis, Tinea cruris, Tinea pedis.
McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


A fungus infection (dermatophytosis) of the keratin component of hair, skin, or nails. Genera of fungi causing such infection are Microsporum, Trichophyton, and Epidermophyton.
Synonym(s): ringworm, serpigo (1) .
[L. worm, moth]
Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing © Farlex 2012


Enlarge picture
Any contagious skin infection caused by fungi of the genera Microsporum or Trichophyton. The hallmark of these conditions is a well-defined red rash, with an elevated, wavy, or worm-shaped border. Ringworm of the scalp is called tinea capitis; of the body, tinea corporis; of the groin, tinea cruris; of the hand, tinea manus; of the beard, tinea barbae; of the nails, tinea unguium; and of the feet, tinea pedis or athlete's foot. illustration;
Medical Dictionary, © 2009 Farlex and Partners


Collins Dictionary of Medicine © Robert M. Youngson 2004, 2005

athlete's foot





a fungal disease caused by Epidermophyton floccosum. The fungus can cause irritation of other parts of the body apart from the feet and is parasitic or pathogenic on nails and skin in general. Athlete's foot is most common in adolescent males and infection is caused usually by walking barefoot on infected floors.
Collins Dictionary of Biology, 3rd ed. © W. G. Hale, V. A. Saunders, J. P. Margham 2005


Fungal infection of keratin component of hair, skin, or nails.
Medical Dictionary for the Dental Professions © Farlex 2012
References in periodicals archive ?
"Individuals with pre-existing skin disease or metabolic or immunologic disorders may be at an increased risk and should be very careful around an animal with known or suspected ringworm."
Ringworm is transmitted by spores in the soil and by contact with the infected hair of dogs and cats, typically found on carpets, brushes, combs, toys, and furniture.
While considering a prevalence of 27% of ringworm between Iranian wrestlers according to a previous non published study, (confidence interval= 98% and standard error of 2%) a sample size of 300 was calculated.
Despite its name, ringworm is caused by a fungus, not a worm.
Ringworm is a highly contagious fungus that is in the same family as athlete's foot, Belachaikovsky said.
The aim of the present paper was to evaluate, by an open randomized trial, the antimycotic activity of TTO treating equine ringworm in naturally infected horses.
I can remember those little feet processing to school, many of them bare, those little empty bellies, those little backsides hanging out of those little threadbare trousers and, of course, those little shaved heads painted purple to counter the ringworm.
Wedi edrych yn y Geiriadur Mawr a gweld nad oes y ffasiwn air a drywinen, ond dyna'r gair ar lafar gwlad yma am 'ringworm'.
About 70,000 species of fungi have been described; however, the medical community focuses on molds and yeast because they can produce a number of diseases including ringworm, yeast infections, and several systemic diseases.
There may be some central clearing giving the impression that it is an area of ringworm. Towards the edge of the patch there is a fine scale.
Many people in Ivory Coast depend on traditional healers to cure common ailments such as diarrhea and ringworm. Reliance on such healers has increased in recent years; civil war has forced many doctors to flee and medical centers to close.