Ringworm in Humans: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

November 12, 2012

Ringworm in Humans: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Ringworm is not caused by a worm but a fungus. However, by the time that the true cause of ringworm was discovered, the common name stuck and it is still known as ringworm to this day. Ringworm affects all mammals, including livestock, wild animals, pets and people.

The ringworm fungus is prevalent in the soil throughout most of the world. There is no vaccine to prevent ringworm in humans or ringworm in animals. Many healthy adult animals and people develop a natural resistance. People most at risk from ringworm include children, senior citizens and anyone suffering from an immunodeficiency disorder.


The symptoms of ringworm in humans are identical to the symptoms of ringworm in livestock and pets. Ringworm gets its name from the characteristic red ring it makes surrounding a patch of itchy, peeling flesh. Sometimes these patches may be round and sometimes oblong or another bizarre shape. Ringworm can imbed itself and the nails of fingers and toes. The red rings will not be seen, but the nails will become discolored, very thick and misshapen.

Ringworm patches usually first appear on the hands, feet, scalp or neck. If left untreated, the ringworm patches spread throughout the rest of the body. At first, patches are not very itchy but over time they can become intensely itchy. They may puff out like a blister, or ooze a clear liquid. The danger is in scratching oneself open and coming down with an internal infection from the broken skin.


Ringworm in humans is highly contagious not only to other humans put to pets and other animals. The ringworm patches will constantly shed microscopic spores. Anyone diagnosed with ringworm must be sure never to share clothing, shoes, combs or other personal grooming equipment with others. Limit physical contact with anyone, particularly children and the elderly, so as to lessen the risk of spreading ringworm.

Clothes, bedding and any pillows that can be machine washed should be washed daily to kill any ringworm spores. Vacuuming every day can also help remove spores. Treatment for ringworm will take much longer if this housecleaning is not done. Avoid going to public pools or gyms or anywhere people walk around in bare feet.


Although highly annoying, ringworm in humans is treatable and curable. Patients are given an antifungal shampoo to use if their ringworm is on the head. Antifungal medications such as ointments or pills are administered if the ringworm is at other parts of the body. Ringworm in humans usually clears up in 30 days if a person takes medication and takes the time to do daily cleaning.

People suffering from ringworm need to wash themselves and their hair every day. They need to wear loose-fitting clothing that does not rub against itchy skin patches. Doctors will usually prescribe anti-itch creams or lotions in order to reduce the itchiness. If the itchiness is mild, then over the counter anti-itch products with miconazole or clotrimazole may be recommended. If a person has scratched himself open, then he may be prescribed antibiotics.


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