By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Ringworm is a fungal skin infection caused by dermatophytes. These dermatophytes are fungi that survive on tough waterproof skin, nail and hair tissue called keratin.
The disease, unlike the name suggests, is not caused by a worm. It is named thus because of the characteristic ring like lesion that is seen in this infection.
Typical symptoms of ringworm
Ring worm is typically characterized by a circular or ring like lesion. The center is pale and scaly and it progresses outwards.
The rims are red and inflamed and may be lined by blisters that may even ooze or appear crusted.
The center often looks scaly and silvery. The lesion may be extremely itchy. There may be one or more patches all over the body.
Symptoms of different types of ringworm
Specific types of ringworm have specific symptoms. (1-4)
Scalp ringworm or tiniea capitis
This is usually manifested as an itchy scalp. Around the lesion there may be patchy hair loss and there may be itchy and sore small patches of scaly skin on the scalp.
In more severe cases the sores may be pus-filled and crusted with oozing. This is usually due to secondary skin infections my bacteria.
A very severe infection especially in the vulnerable population like infants, elderly and those with suppressed immunity may lead to a large inflamed sore called a kerion.
This oozes pus and there are additional features like fever and swollen lymph glands.
Body ringworm or tinea corporis
There may be one or more patches of ringworm over the body.
In more severe cases the rings may be multiple, large in size and often may merge together.
The rings feel slightly raised and may be itchy. There may be pus filled sores around the lesion. There are often secondary bacterial infections around the lesions as well.
There may be dry, itchy, red and flaky rash usually in the spaces between the toes.
The affected areas may show up with cracked skin, crusting or oozing blisters, swelling, with a burning or stinging sensation and a scaling pattern around the soles and sides of the feet.
Groin ringworm infection
This is also called Jock’s itch or tinea cruris.
This is characterized by red-brown sores that may or may not be ring-shaped. There may be blisters or pus-filled sores around the edge.
The lesions lead to itchiness and redness around the groin, inner thighs and buttocks.
The skin over the lesions appears silvery, shiny and flaky.
Wearing tight clothing and movement due to walking, running exercising etc. may worsen symptoms. Jock’s itch may commonly accompany Athlete’s foot infection.
Fungal nail infection or onychomycosis
The nail appears white and thickened. There is change in color that may be white, black, yellow or green.
The nail becomes brittle and starts to fall off. The area around the nail becomes sore, itchy, scaly and inflamed.
Ringworm of the hands
Ringworm of hands termed tinea mannum is characterized by similar ring like lesions over the hands.
Ringworm of the face
Tinea barbae or infection of the face and beard’s area begins as single lesion or pimple and may spread over the region.
There may be fine, scaly patches of temporary baldness over the beard area. Infected hairs become brittle and break off easily.
Edited by April Cashin-Garbutt, BA Hons (Cantab)
What is ringworm?
Last Updated: Jul 2, 2012