Ringworm: What It Is and How to Treat It

Woman shielding her eyes from sun with summer heat wave in the city background

Despite its name, ringworm doesn’t have anything to do with worms. Rather, ringworm is the common name given to a contagious fungal infection of the skin. It can occur on multiple areas of the body, including the:

  • Feet (known as athlete’s foot)
  • Groin area (known as jock itch)
  • Scalp
  • Hands
  • Toenails
  • Arms
  • Legs
  • Abdomen

Ringworm is also referred to as tinea corporis, meaning, quite simply, a fungal skin infection that occurs somewhere on the body. According to some sources, up to 20% of the population may have some form of ringworm at any given time!

What Causes Ringworm?

There are approximately 40 species of fungi that cause ringworm by infecting the outer layers of skin. While anyone can catch this infection, there are certain factors that will increase your risk. For example, developing ringworm is more likely if you live in a hot, humid environment, which encourages the growth of fungi. People who live in dorms, share locker room space, or engage in skin-to-skin contact sports such as wrestling are more likely to be infected.

Sharing clothes, toiletries, razors, or (unwashed) towels may also spread the disease. Damp or sweaty feet are more likely to be affected by ringworm than feet that are kept dry. You can even get ringworm from an infected animal by simply by petting it. Rarely, touching highly infected soil may lead to a rash.

The fungi capable of causing ringworm can survive on objects for a very long time, unless these objects (such as combs, phones, or towels) are disinfected. So, in summary, the best way to lower your risk of getting ringworm is to:

  • Avoid sharing personal items
  • Keep feet and other damp areas clean and dry
  • Avoid touching infected animals or soil, if possible
  • Routinely disinfect frequently used items, including exercise equipment

What Are the Symptoms of Ringworm?

As its name suggests, ringworm typically presents as a circular rash with a raised, irregular border. Although not always circular, this rash tends to have a ring-shaped pattern. The edges of this irregular ring are often raised and somewhat scaly, and the inside of the ring may also be scaly or clear. Itchiness can occur in some cases.

Patches of affected skin may appear reddish on light-colored skin. On darker skin, they may appear brown or gray. Scratching or picking at the rash can help transfer the rash to other areas of the body, such as the feet or groin, so it is best to avoid touching the rash.

How Long Does Ringworm Last?

It’s important to treat ringworm promptly, as it is both highly infectious and typically progressive. Without treatment, the rash is likely to continue spreading and enlarging. It will not go away on its own.

How Is Ringworm Treated?

Ringworm is treated using anti-fungal medications that come in a variety of forms, including creams, lotions, and pills. While over-the-counter formulations are available to treat ringworm, it may be necessary to take a prescription medication to fully eliminate the infection.

If you experience a rash that does not improve in two weeks with over-the-counter methods, it’s a good idea to visit a reputable medical provider like PhysicianOne Urgent Care for additional treatment.

Visit PhysicianOne Urgent Care for Ringworm Treatment

If you or a family member has concerning symptoms or a curious skin rash that won’t seem to clear up, PhysicianOne Urgent Care is here 365 days per year to provide high-quality urgent care—all at a cost that’s significantly lower than an emergency room’s. Stop in one of our fully equipped locations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, or New York today to receive care on a walk-in basis, or schedule an appointment ahead of time if you prefer. Don’t feel like leaving the house? We understand—that’s why our team is pleased to provide 24/7 telemedicine services that allow patients to consult with our practitioners “fact-to-face” from the comfort of home any time of day or night.

We’ve got you! Visit a PhysicianOne Urgent Care location near you today or connect with us online to receive ringworm treatment from an expert. Our team is here to answer any questions you may have.

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