Though many might assume that ringworm is caused by a worm, it is actually caused by a fungus. It is a contagious infection of the skin that can affect both humans and animals. It manifests itself as red patches on the skin which may later spread to other parts of the body including the scalp, feet, groin or beard.
Ringworm is spread through the outer layer of the skin. Some ways one might contract ringworm is by touching someone who is infected, or touching items that have been in contact with an infected person, like towels, clothes, bed linens and chairs. Animals who are infected might also be a source of contagion. In rare cases, one could even contract the infection through soil where fungus may be present.
Early signs of ringworm will be a small infected area of the skin. It starts off as a rounded, red, inflamed patch of skin in which the outer edge will appear more inflamed and scaly than the paler center. This ring-like appearance is what gives ringworm its name.
The small patch of skin will then spread outward. Sometimes there is only one patch of the infection, but sometimes several patches will appear. The affected areas may be mildly irritating, or, in some cases, can become quite itchy and inflamed. This usually depends on what kind of fungus caused the infection.
To treat ringworm, you must get an antifungal cream. Although you may want to get one on prescription, it is not necessary as many are sold over the counter in drug stores. There are various types and brands of treatment available. Among the many, some recommended creams include Phytozine and Terrasil both of which have FDA approved ingredients and high customer rating for their quality and effectiveness. These are both available online only.
You can find other treatments like terbinafine, clotrimazole, econazole, ketoconazole and miconazole at your local drug stores. There is no evidence that any of these creams are better than any other.
It is important to read the instructions of each product carefully when treating the infection as different products have different effects on the skin. You must continue use until the ringworm has disappeared completely which may take up to seven days. Some may even need to apply creams after the infection has disappeared as a precautionary measure.
If skin is particularly inflamed, a doctor may prescribe a topical treatment that is a combination of a steroid cream and an antifungal. Antifungal tablets can also be prescribed to those who don’t respond well to topical creams. These include terbinafine, Griseofulvin and itraconazole tablets. However, these tablets are not recommended for children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with liver or lung disease or heart failure. The tablets can also interfere with other medications you may be taking.
Of course, the best way to deal with ringworm is to avoid contracting it. Be sure to wash towels, sheets and clothing frequently and avoid sharing towels with others. Also, if you are infected, avoid scratching affected areas as this may spread the fungus to other areas of the body.