Ringworm or Ring Worm, It’s Not a Worm at All

Ringworm is poorly named, as ringworm isn’t actually a worm at all! Many people also call it “ring worm” or “ring worms”, but no matter what you call it, this annoying blight is actually caused by a fungus. In fact, ringworm is the same fungus (the latin name for which is “tinea”) which causes athletes foot.

The reason that it is called “ringworm” is because when it affects humans, it may cause round, ring-shaped welts on the skin.

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Ringworm can infect both humans and animals, and humans can catch ringworm from animals (and vice versa). Ringworm is transmitted by direct contact with the infected area of an infected person or animal.

According to the National Institute of Health, the typical symptoms of ringworm in people include:

* Itchy, red, raised, scaly patches that may blister and ooze. The patches often have sharply-defined edges. They are often redder around the outside with normal skin tone in the center. This may create the appearance of a ring. Your skin may also appear unusually dark or light.

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* When your scalp or beard is infected, you will have bald patches.

* If nails are infected, they become discolored, thick, and even crumble.

Animals infected with ringworm will scratch, and they may develop bald patches. However lesions caused by ringworm in animals are less classic in shape – they may not be ring-shaped, and in fact they may not develop lesions at all. But even if there are no lesions, they can still pass ringworm on to you! So if you suspect that your pet may be scratching a bit too much, and may have ringworm, take them to the vet for a skin test!

Ringworm in humans often responds well to keeping the infected area clean and dry (the tinea fungus loves moisture!), washing your clothing and bedding every day so as not to infect others or reinfect yourself, and use of an over-the-counter anti-fungal preparation available from the pharmacy. However, as always, this is not medical advice, and if you suspect that you have ringworm you should consult your doctor.

Recommended reading:
The Cornell Illustrated Medical Encyclopedia : THe Definitive Medical Home Reference Guide (Weill Cornell Health Series)

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