What Is Ringworm?
Contrary to popular belief, ringworm isn’t actually a worm. Instead, ringworm is a contagious fungal skin infection that causes a distinctive red, ring-shaped rash on the skin.
- Ringworm can occur anywhere on your body, including ringworm of the scalp.
- Ringworm causes itching and appears as a red, circular rash or red, scaly patches on the skin.
- Ringworm is more likely to affect children, but adults can get ringworm too.
- Ringworm can be cured with antifungal treatments such as LamisilAT.
How do you get Ringworm?
You can get ringworm by touching a person or animal with infected skin or from touching surfaces, such as floors, clothing or towels, that have been contaminated with the fungus that causes ringworm.
Ringworm is more common in hot, humid environments that provide ideal conditions for the fungal infection to grow and spread.
You can get ringworm from touching infected animals including dogs, cats, horses and cows. In rare cases, ringworm can spread through prolonged contact with soil that’s infected with the ringworm fungus.
What Causes Ringworm
Ringworm (tinea corporis) is caused by dermatophytes — the same mold-like fungus that causes athlete’s foot and jock itch. Dermatophytes live on the surface of the skin, feeding off a substance called keratin found in dead skin cells. Their growth is limited on dry, clean skin but in moist and warm conditions the fungus multiplies rapidly. Penetrating the skin through small skin abrasions or wounds, the fungus can subsequently infect the top layer of your skin, causing ringworm.
Ringworm is highly contagious and spreads easily between people. You can also be infected with ringworm from some animals, such as cats and dogs. Skin-to-skin contact can spread the fungus from person to person. For example, if you touch the infected skin on a person with ringworm, you could develop a fungal infection anywhere on your body.
The fungal spores that cause ringworm can also stay alive on clothing, towels, bedding and other surfaces, which are moist and warm and have a supply of dead skin cells. Fungal spores can live for up to 20 months in the ideal environment.^
Children are more likely to get ringworm from handling and petting animals such as dogs, cats and guinea pigs, but anyone can be infected with the fungus at any age. People with diabetes and a weakened immune system are more susceptible to skin infections such as ringworm. Obese people are more at risk too, as their skinfolds trap moisture and allow the fungus to thrive.
Other risk factors for developing ringworm include:
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*Based on Source Healthcare Analytics 2017 data.