Ringworm (tinea corporis) is a fungal infection that affects the skin of humans and domestic animals (cats, dogs, sheep, etc) alike. It is incredibly common, with approximately 20 percent of the population suffering from the condition at any given moment. Though irritating, it is easily treatable and often goes away on its own.
Ringworm is caused by parasites known as dermatophytes that feed on keratin, the material that comprises the outer layer of the skin.The only way to contract ringworm is to come in direct contact with infected humans, animals or even inanimate objects. Those who play sports are particularly susceptible, especially any sport that requires close contact, such as wrestling.
There are eight different types of ringworm (tinea), with each one affecting different areas of the body: barbae affects the face and neck; capitis affects the scalp; corporis affects all areas of the body; cruris causes jock itch; faciei affects the face but not the beard area; manus affects the hands; pedis affects the feet; and unquium affects the fingernails and toenails.
Ringworm gets its name from its appearance: a red, painful or itchy, raised sore shaped like a ring, appearing alone or in groups of three or four. Symptoms, however, may vary depending on the type of ringworm contracted. Given the wide variety, it should be diagnosed by a doctor for the best course of treatment.
Though ringworm commonly resolves without the aid of external treatment, there are times when external treatment is necessary. Anti-fungal creams applied to the lesion twice a day for two weeks have shown to be beneficial. Medications often prescribed for ringworm include imadizoles, allylamines, naphthiomates and substituted pyridines. In the case of individuals with weakened immune systems or if the application of cream-based medication does not clear up the condition, anti-fungal medication can be taken in pill form.
Relief for itching can be found in topical corticosteroids, though one should always be sure to not scratch the legion, as excessive aggravation could lead to a permanent dark spot where the legion once was.
If the legion contains an abscess that gets infected, surgical drainage may be required. This could lead to a bacterial infection, which would require the use of antibiotics.
Ringworm thrives in warm, damp places, so prevention requires little more than adequately drying off after showering, wearing loose-fitting clothing and avoiding contact with others who have experienced ringworm.
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