Ringworm is not a type of worm, nor does the condition involve worms in any way. Rather, it is a colloquial name given to a skin condition clinically known as tinea corporis. Tinea corporis is one of several types of tinea fungal infections, the others including tinea cruris (“jock itch”) tinea pedis (athlete’s foot), tinea capitis (ringworm of the scalp), and tinea versicolor (small, discolored patches of skin).
What Is Tinea? Tinea is a common fungal infection that affects the superficial layer of the skin. The appearance of skin affected by the tinea fungal infection depends on its location on the body:
- Tinea corporis (ringworm) will take the form of a red, somewhat circular ring that surrounds a patch of scaly skin or skin with raised red bumps.
- Tinea cruris (jock itch) is a rash that affects the inner thighs but generally not the genitals.
- Tinea pedis (athlete’s foot) refers to scaly, itchy patches that occur on the soles of the feet and the skin between the toes.
- Tinea capitis (ringworm of the scalp) is most common among children and results in itchy, scaly patches on the head, usually accompanied by bald spots.
- Tinea versicolor refers to a skin condition in which patches of discoloration, caused by fungus interfering with the normal pigmentation of the skin, appear, most commonly on the trunk and shoulders.
Of these types of tinea fungal infections, all are contagious except for tinea versicolor. Tinea versicolor is caused by a fungus commonly found on healthy skin, but which becomes overgrown due to exposure to heat, excess sweating, and oily skin.
Tinea corporis is highly contagious and may be spread by infected humans or animals. This tinea fungal infection can even be spread through contact with objects that have been touched by infected people or with soil that contains the tinea fungus.
Both athlete’s foot and jock itch are contagious, though relatively easy to treat and contain. Many cases of jock itch occur due to the transmission of the tinea fungus from the foot to the groin after touching a foot affected by tinea.
Tinea capitis is most common among pre-school and school-aged children and is highly contagious. Without tinea treatment, the condition can result in severe scarring and even permanent hair loss.
What Are the Treatments for Tinea?
Your Dermablue provider may prescribe an antifungal medication. Tinea treatment drugs work to control the tinea fungus and prevent it from coming back. You may spread the antifungal product on your skin as a medicated shampoo, powder, cream, foam, spray, or lotion; or you may take a pill so the tinea treatment can spread throughout your body. Your doctor may prescribe a combination of these treatments.
How Can I Prevent Tinea?
Good personal hygiene helps prevent the spread of tinea/ringworm. Teach your child to practice good hygiene and generally not to share combs, brushes, or hats. Children also shouldn’t share towels, clothes, or sports equipment that hasn’t been properly cleaned.
Ringworm also can be transmitted from an infected dog or cat, so avoid animals who look mangy or have bald spots in their coats. If you have an animal that you think may have ringworm, take it to your veterinarian for tinea treatment.