Ringworm is an infection of the skin by fungal organisms. The term ringworm is a misnomer as the causative organism is not a worm. This skin condition is highly contagious disease especially in children. It causes a red rash on any part of your body that resembles a ring hence the name ring worm. It is a disease of children but any age group can also be affected.
It is commonly known as tinea and is caused by superficial fungi called dermatophytes. It can affect both the skin and its appendages. The skin appendages include the hair and nails. This is due to its ability to live on dead tissues of your skin. Multiple sites can be affected at once. For an example, you can gave an infection in the head, toes, fingers and body truck.
As pointed earlier, tinea infection is caused by fungus. It is common in children because they often have close physical contact, which facilitates the spreading among them. Many fungi and bacteria are present on your body. These organisms rarely harm you. Many are even useful as they protect you from infection by consuming disease causing pathogens on your body surface. However, when your immune system is low, ringworms can easily develop. In conditions such as acquired immune deficiency syndrome, ringworms are more common.
Ringworm infection has different names depending on the location of the lesion. When the hair of your beard is affected, it is called tinea barbae. This results to patchy hair loss and an ugly looking beard. Tinea corporis results when the infection is at the level of your trunk. This is common in people with poor hygiene. Infection with other organisms is even common in this condition. Organisms such as tick and mice are commonly isolated in these individuals. Athlete’s foot implies ringworm infection on the feet.
It is also known as tinea pedis. This kind of tinea is more common in farmers who do not use protective means while digging their land. Tinea capitis is more common in children especially from developing countries. It leads to hair loss with scratchy marks on the head. On the groin especially of poor kept individual, this lesion is called tinea cruris. It is also known as jock itchFrom these sites, ringworm can easily be transferred from one individual to another.
You can get this condition is you come into contact with someone who has it or items that are contaminated such as towels, combs, clothing of infected people and shower surfaces. Pets can also transfer the infection easily. Cats are commonest culprits. Since this fungus thrives well in warm, moist area of your body, poor self hygiene can be an important predisposing factor.
Symptoms of ringworm infection
Signs and symptoms of ringworm infection varies significantly on the part affected. Tinea infection of the head will give you dry, brittle hair of the affected parts or loss of hair in patches. You may also have severe itching sensation and red-ringed patches with or without blisters and a scaly dry skin.
On the body or trunk; your skin may appear scaly and dry, you may also have red-ringed patches as in the head and severe itching lesions. If your nails get affected, they may become discolored, crumble easily and become thick than the other parts not affected. Infection in other parts of your body will generally have the same manifestations depending on the presence of hair or nails.
When to see a doctor
You will need to visit a general practitioner if either you or your children have the scalp ringworm variant. This type is hard to get rid of and might need some antifungal which are only available by prescription. The other variants of tinea can be easily treated by topical antifungal such as creams which are readily available in pharmacy.
How long does it take for ringworm to go away?
Different management strategies are available including self care and the use of medication. The duration it takes before you permanently get rid of ringworm depends on the treatment approach you choose. If you use drugs such as antifungals, it should take you approximately four weeks. It should be noted that, even without drugs, these lesions disappear spontaneously.
If you are using drugs, 4 weeks should be enough to clear the infection and your skin to heal and go back to normal again. You may need extended periods of time if you opt not to use drugs. This may take you several weeks or even months.
Treatment and prevention of ringworm
Non-medical approach entails maintaining proper body hygiene. This is achieved by keeping your hair clean and dry, washing your bed sheets after every morning or using new ones during the period you are infected and avoiding wearing of clothes that irritates the affected areas. Pharmacological agents used in the treatment of this condition include both systemic and local lesions.
Oral drugs will be prescribed to you if you have serious illness that has extended beyond the skin. If the infection is confined to the skin, you can use creams and lotions.
Prevention is centered at personal hygiene and avoiding affected individuals. you should also make sure that your children are well kept and washed every day. Prompt diagnosis and treatment is of importance in avoiding complications.