Many bacteria and fungi live on your body. Some of these are useful, while others can cause infections. Ringworm occurs when a type of fungus called tinea grows and multiplies on your skin.
Ringwork can affect the skin on your:
Beard -- tinea barbae
Body -- tinea corporis
Feet -- tinea pedis (also called athlete's foot)
Groin area -- tinea cruris (also called jock itch)
Scalp -- tinea capitis
Ringworm can spread easily from one person to another. You can catch ringworm if you touch someone who has the infection, or if you come into contact with items contaminated by the fungus, such as combs, unwashed clothing, and shower or pool surfaces. You can also catch ringworm from pets that carry the fungus. Cats are common carriers.
The fungus that causes ringworm thrive in warm, moist areas. Ringworm is more likely when you are often wet (such as from sweating) and from minor injuries to your skin, scalp, or nails.
Symptoms of ringworm include:
Itchy, red, raised, scaly patches that may blister and ooze.
The patches tend to have sharply-defined edges.
Red patches are often redder around the outside with normal skin tone in the center. This may look like a ring.
If ringworm affects your hair, you will have bald patches.
If ringworm affects your nails, they will become discolored, thick, and even crumble.
To care for ringworm:
Keep your skin clean and dry.
Apply over-the-counter antifungal or drying powders, lotions, or creams that contain miconazole, clotrimazole, or similar ingredients.
Don't wear clothing that rubs against and irritates the area.
Wash sheets and nightclothes every day while you are infected.
Your health care provider may prescribe pills to treat the fungus if you have:
A severe case of ringworm
Ringworm that keeps coming back or that lasts for a long time
Ringworm in your hair
Ringworm is a common fungal infection of the skin and is not due to a worm.
The medical term for ringworm is tinea. The condition is further named for the site of the body where the infection occurs.
Ringworm causes a scaly, crusted rash that may itch.
Ringworm can be successfully treated with antifungal medications used either topically or orally.