Our skin is amazing, providing a protective barrier between our inner bodies and the outside world. But there are a variety of pathogens which can damage it, including bacterial, viral and fungal infections. Such skin infections can be easily diagnosed and treated by a GP, such as our experienced doctors at London Doctors Clinic.
What is Ringworm?
Ringworm, otherwise known as Tinea Corpori, is a fungal infection of the skin which results in a red, itchy, circular rash, hence its name.
Ringworm is caused by specific fungi called dermatophytes, which feed on keratin, which is one of the proteins that makes up hair, skin and nails. It is not linked to worms in any way!
How Common is Ringworm?
Ringworm infection is very common: up to 20% of the population may be infected at any given time. It affects the scalp, feet, groin and nails in particular.
These fungal infections are referred to by the medical term ‘tinea’. They are very contagious but easily treated and not serious.
Ringworm can affect multiple areas at the same time and can affect most areas of the body. Scalp infections are particularly common in children while groin infections are more common in young men.
Ringworm on the scalp, face or other hair covered areas can be associated with patchy hair loss.
Ringworm usually presents as:
- A round, red or silvery patch of skin
- Scaly, inflamed or itchy skin
If there is a severe ringworm infection, you may notice:
- The rings growing in size or multiplying
- Blisters or pus-filled sores around the rings
Ringworm usually presents as a circular, red, dry rash on the skin
Children are more likely to have symptoms of ringworm than adults. Adults can carry the infection on their scalp without developing any rash or symptoms. This is because the adult immune system can defend the body against developing symptoms.
There are no serious consequences of ringworm in a person with a normal immune system.
How Do You Catch Ringworm? Is Ringworm Contagious?
Yes – Ringworm is very contagious!
You can catch it from:
- Human-to-human contact
- Animal contact
- Contact with ringworm-contaminated object (such as towels, clothes, or hairbrushes)
- Prolonged exposure to soil containing the fungus (rare, but possible!)
Ringworm is highly contagious, and infection can even be spread through sharing contaminated objects such as towels
How is Ringworm Treated?
Treatment for Ringworm is very simple and effective, involving antifungal creams, tablets or shampoos.
Fungal scalp infections, in particular, need tablet treatment, as shampoo or cream alone will not cure the infection.
Your GP may need to take a small scraping from the infected area to figure out which fungus is causing the infection, to tailor treatment to better target the responsible fungus.
As ringworm is highly contagious, it is important to take precautions to prevent others catching it.
This can be done by:
- Avoiding sharing towels, bedding or clothes with someone with ringworm
- Not sharing combs and other personal hygiene items
- Avoiding scratching the affected areas
- Making sure pets with suspected ringworm are treated at the vets
- Maintaining good levels of personal hygiene (especially in children)
Who is More at Risk of Ringworm?
You are at risk of contracting ringworm if you are:
- In contact with animals
- Using public showers
- Contact sports such as wrestling
- If you’re overweight
Once in contact with the fungus, the immune system is sometimes able to keep it in check in healthy individuals, preventing the symptoms. However, those who are more at risk of developing an infection include:
- The very young or old
- People of Afro-Caribbean origin
- Those with type 1 diabetics
- People who are overweight
- Anyone with a weakened immune system
- Those who have had previous fungal infections
- People with poor circulation (particularly venous insufficiency, where the veins in your legs struggle to return blood to your heart)
So next time you’re sharing a towel or comb, using public showers, wrestling, or even petting animals, take a second to consider the risk of contracting ringworm! And if those subtle skin changes do happen to appear, you know how to book a convenient private GP appointment to get a swift solution to the problem… at London Doctors Clinic! With eight London clinics, all of which are around key transport hubs, LDC should never be too far away when you need to find a GP or GP surgery.