Ringworm (medical name: dermatophytosis) is a medical condition best known for causing a raised red rash in the shape of a ring. The condition does not usually cause any complications, but is considered by most to be unsightly. It is commonly found in humans as well as domesticated animals and pets. It is highly contagious and can be spread by direct contact, sharing towels, sheets or clothing, walking barefoot in high traffic areas and from contact with infected pets. It is estimated that 20% of all people are infected at any one time. Ringworm is usually worse in summer and subsides during the winter months. Let’s find out what causes this condition and how it can be treated.
What causes ringworm?
Despite its name, this condition is caused by fungi from the dermatophytes family. A number of different fungi cause the condition and each fungus attacks a different part of the body, although some are known to affect other areas as well. These fungi feed on keratin, which is found in the skin, hair and nails. They are able to thrive in the warm, moist environment of the skin and on the outside of hair.
Some commonly known conditions caused by these fungi are sometimes known by other names such as; tinea, jock itch and athlete’s foot. Tinea corporis is the condition most commonly referred to as ringworm because of the appearance of the round ring shape raised rash that occurs on the arms, legs and trunk.
The most common treatment for ringworm is various antifungal treatments. The first line of defense is topical creams that are used twice a day until the condition clears (usually within 2 weeks). For more severe infections an oral antifungal drug is used. It is important to prevent others coming into contact with the rash or infected towels, clothes and/or bed sheets, to avoid spreading the fungal infection.