Name = Ringworm

Caption = Ringworm on the arm
DiseasesDB = 17492
ICD10 = ICD10|B|35|4|b|35
ICD9 = ICD9|110.9
MedlinePlus =
eMedicineSubj = emerg
eMedicineTopic = 592
MeshID = D014005

Ringworm (also called serpigo) is an infection of the skin, characterized by a reddish to brownish raised or bumpy patch of skin that may be lighter in the center, giving the appearance of a “ring.” Contrary to its name, ringworm is not caused by a worm but by parasitic fungi (Dermatophytosis). It can exist anywhere on the body. Depending on its location, it can also be known as "tinea pedis" or "athlete's foot" when on the feet, "tinea cruris" or "jock itch" when on the groin area, "tinea corporis" when on the body, where it is most commonly referred to as ringworm, or "tinea capitis" when on the scalp. [cite web|url=http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001439.htm|title=MedicinePlus Medical Encyclopedia:Tinea Corporis|publisher=National Institues of Health|accessdate=2008-10-08]

Fungi are organisms that survive by eating plant or animal material, those that cause parasitic infection (dermatophytes) feed on keratin, the material found in the outer layer of skin, hair, and nails. These fungi thrive best on skin that is moist, hot, and hidden from the light. Together with the other dermatophytosis, up to twenty percent of the population has one of these infections at any given moment.Fact|date=July 2007


Ringworm is very common, especially in children, and may be spread by skin-to-skin contact, as well as via contact with contaminated items such as hairbrushes or through the use of the same toilet seat as an infected individual. Ringworm spreads readily, as those infected are contagious even before they show symptoms of the disease. Participants in contact sports such as wrestling have a risk of contracting the fungal infection through skin-to-skin contact.

Ringworm is mildly contagious. Ringworm is also a common infection in domestic animals, especially farm animals, dogs and cats and even small pets like hamsters or guinea pigs. Humans can contract ringworm from these animals as humans are in close contact with them. Chickens may also be a source, due to the dirty conditions in which many poultry live and in which ringworm may thrive. Ringworm can also be caught from other humans, both by direct contact and by prolonged contact with flakes of shed skin (from sharing clothes or from house dust, for instance).

To catch ringworm, you have to be exposed to it and you have to be susceptible. Some people are much more susceptible than others. Those with eczema or other skin problems get ringworm more easily because the protective barrier of the skin's outer layer is less intact. Children are more susceptible before puberty. Some people are genetically predisposed, and can get it easily throughout life.

ymptoms and diagnosis

The best known sign of ringworm in people is the appearance of two or more red raised itchy patches with defined edges, not unlike the herald rash of Pityriasis rosea. These patches are often lighter in the center, taking on the appearance of a ring with hyperpigmentation around the circumference caused by an increase in melanin. If the infected area involves the scalp or beard area, then bald patches may become evident. The affected area may become itchy for periods of time.

Doctors can diagnose ringworm on sight, or they may take a skin scraping, or in the case of animal ringworm or tinea capitis, examine plucked hairs for fungal elements. This is examined under a microscope, or put on an agar plate in a microbiology laboratory and allowed to grow. Some of the fungi fluoresce under a black light examination, often with a Wood's lamp.

In domestic animals, ringworm can cause a variety of symptoms, but most cases show scaling and patches of hair loss. Some cats can be carriers, but show no symptoms.

Sometimes a ringworm infection may cause skin lesions in a part of the body that is remote from the actual infection. Such lesions are called "dermatophytids". The lesions themselves are fungus-free, and normally disappear upon treatment of the actual infection. The most common example is an eruption in the hands resulting from a fungus infection of the feet. Dermatophytids are essentially a generalized allergic reaction to the fungus.


Topical antifungal drugs containing miconazole (Daktarin, Micatin & Monistat), clotrimazole (Canesten, Hydrozole, Lotrimin AF), terbinafine (Lamisil), butenafine (Lotrimin Ultra), and tolnaftate (Tinactin), many available without a prescription, are used to clear up the infection. Pyrithione zinc, found in Head & Shoulders shampoo, is a very effective treatment for ringworm on the scalp and can be used as a body wash to assist in overall treatment. During the 1920s, thallium was used to treat ringworm in children. [cite book | last = Sanders | first = John | title = Forensic Casebook of Crime | publisher = True Crime Library/Forum Press | location = London | year = 2000 | isbn = 1874358362 | pages = p.204 ]

Itching, burning, cracking, and scaling that accompany this condition may prevent effective treatment. Ointments may be mixed with hydrocortisone creams such as Cortaid appear to reduce inflammation, but can allow the infection to spread in an uncharacteristic manner, resulting in a lesion known as tinea incognito. [ [http://www.uspharmacist.com/oldformat.asp?url=newlook/files/Cons/ACF2F92.cfm&pub_id=8&article_id=84 Ringworm: Easy to Recognize and Treat] by W. Steven Pray, Ph.D., R.Ph. Accessed 20 June 2008.] Fungal infections may take a while to clear up, but most ringworm infections should see improvement in a week or two. Treatment is usually continued for two weeks after symptoms disappear to prevent future occurrence. Types affecting the nails or scalp are very difficult to treat due to fungal infection in follicle roots or under the nail itself.

On September 28, 2007, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Terbinafine (Lamisil by Novartis AG) as a new treatment for use by children aged 4 and up. Antifungal granules can be sprinkled on a child's food to treat ringworm of the scalp, Tinea capitis. [ [http://www.reuters.com/article/governmentFilingsNews/idUSN2820532120070928 Reuters, US FDA approves oral granules for scalp ringworm] ]

Griseofulvin is a traditional drug used to treat ringworm in both animals and people. It can be very effective, but usually requires a prescription and may produce side effects. In cats and cattle, sulfurated lime rinses are often used to treat ringworm; and dilute povidone-iodine may be used as a wash in cattle. Enilconazole, as a rinse, is an effective ringworm treatment available in many countries for treating animals.Fact|date=October 2008

Lufenuron, the active ingredient in Program oral flea treatment, is also commonly prescribed by vets to treat ringworm infections in cats and dogs.

In humans, if ringworm infections are left untreated, it may spread to other areas of the body. This can result in complications such as bacterial infections, dermatitis, other skin disorders and/or scarring of affected areas. [ [http://www.symptoms-ringworm-treatment.com/ringworms-in-humans.html Ringworms in Humans Q&A] answer provided by Dr. A Richardson, MD., guest respondent. from Symptoms-ringworm-treatment.com. Accessed July 9, 2008.]


Fungi thrive in warm, moist areas, such as locker rooms and swimming pools, and in skin folds. The fungi may be present without any symptoms.

Advice often given to prevent ringworm includes:

*Avoidance of sharing clothing, sports equipment, towels, or sheets.
*Washing of clothes in hot water with fungicidal (fungus-killing) soap after suspected exposure to ringworm.

*Avoidance of walking barefoot, wearing of appropriate protective shoes to the beach and flip-flops/thongs in locker rooms. [ [http://www.suburbanchicagonews.com/heraldnews/lifestyles/871209,4_5_JO02_DOCTORCOL_S1.article Keeping footloose on trips] by Lori Klemm, podiatrist, Will County Medical Associates S.C. for The Herald News April 2 2008] [ [http://www.wyeth.com/animalhealth?rid=/wyeth_html/home/user_group_landing/for_ahp/fortdodge_overview.html Fort Dodge Animal Health:] Milestones from Wyeth.com. Accessed April 28, 2008] [http://www.2ndchance.info/ringworm.htm Ringworm In Your Dog Cat Or Other Pet:] Prevention by Ron Hines DVM PhD 5/4/06. Accessed April 28, 2008]

*After being exposed to places where the potential of being infected is great [ [http://www.intelihealth.com/IH/ihtIH/WSIHW000/9339/10628.html InteliHealth: ] ] , washing with an antibacterial and anti-fungal soap or one that contains Tea Tree Oil, which contains terpinen-4-ol. (thought to be the cause of the antimicrobial activity seen in it, and has been noted for the successful treatment of fungal infections )

ee also

* Folliculitis
* Pityriasis rosea
* Antifungal drugs


* The Merck Manual, Twelfth Edition, 1972, p. 1451


External links

* [http://www.dermnet.com/moduleSearch.cfm?searchTerm=tinea Tinea photo library at Dermnet]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Ringworm — Ring worm , n. (Med.) A contagious affection of the skin due to the presence of a vegetable parasite, and forming ring shaped discolored patches covered with vesicles or powdery scales. It occurs either on the body, the face, or the scalp.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • ringworm — early 15c., from RING (Cf. ring) (n.) + WORM (Cf. worm) …   Etymology dictionary

  • ringworm — ► NOUN ▪ a contagious itching skin disease occurring in small circular patches, caused by various fungi and affecting chiefly the scalp or feet …   English terms dictionary

  • ringworm — [riŋ′wʉrm΄] n. any of various contagious skin diseases caused by related varieties of fungus and characterized by itching and the formation of ring shaped, discolored patches covered with scales or vesicles …   English World dictionary

  • ringworm — /ring werrm /, n. Pathol. any of a number of contagious skin diseases caused by certain parasitic fungi and characterized by the formation of ring shaped eruptive patches. [1375 1425; late ME; see RING1, WORM] * * * Superficial skin changes… …   Universalium

  • ringworm — SYN: tinea. r. of beard SYN: tinea barbae. black dot r. tinea capitis due most commonly to Trichophyton tonsurans or T. violaceum. r. of body SYN: tinea corporis. crusted r. SYN: favus. r. of foot SYN: tinea pedis. honeycomb r. SYN: favus. r. of… …   Medical dictionary

  • ringworm — tinea; n. a fungus infection of the skin, the scalp, or the nails. Ringworm is caused by the dermatophyte fungi – species of Microsporum, Trichophyton, and Epidermophyton – and also affects animals, a source of infection for humans. It can be… …   The new mediacal dictionary

  • ringworm — [[t]rɪ̱ŋwɜː(r)m[/t]] N UNCOUNT Ringworm is a skin disease caused by a fungus. It produces itchy red patches on a person s or animal s skin, especially on their head and between their legs and toes. [MEDICAL] …   English dictionary

  • Ringworm affair — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda The ringworm affair es una referencia a la ionización con rayos X de la cabeza de 20,000 Israelis, especialmente niños, de 1948 a 1960 por tinea capitis (en inglés:ringworm). Un gran porcentaje de esos niños murieron …   Wikipedia Español

  • Ringworm affair — The ringworm affair refers to circumstances involving an estimated 20,000 Israeli individuals, particularly children, who were treated between 1948 and 1960 for tinea capitis (ringworm) with ionizing radiation to the head area. This population… …   Wikipedia

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