Despite the name, ringworm has nothing to do with worms. It is actually a fungus. Rather than get their energy through photosynthesis like plants, fungi feeds on plant or animal matter.

In the case of the ringworm fungus, it feeds on keratin, the outer-most layer of the skin. Like most other types of fungus, ringworm needs a moist place to thrive. This particular one also likes warm places.

This makes gyms and locker rooms common places to contract the infection. The tendency to pick up the fungus in these environments also gives one of the ringworm variations’ its distinctive name of “athlete’s foot.”

Ringworm fungus can establish itself in several different places. Where the infection occurs causes it to display different characteristics as well as assigning unique names to it. Athlete’s foot is one of the more familiar of these variations, and one of the easier names to remember. Many of the others are usually referred to by their Latin nomenclature, with the prefix “tinea,” which refers to a fungal infection.

Ringworm is a fungus. It is not a bacteria, virus, or even a parasite, as the name implies. The specific type of ringworm that produces the classic, and namesake, symptoms is called tinea corporis. It can be identified by a round spot, with a darker border that grows as the infection advances. Some conditions like eczema can look similar to classic ringworm, but are caused by very different things, and thus treated in very different ways, so it is important to diagnose skin conditions correctly.

The ringworm fungus establishes a colony in the outer layer of the skin and feeds on keratin protein found there. Like any other fungus, it reproduces by way of spores, spreading and growing. These colonies are identifiable by specific symptoms, but these visual clues depend on where the infection takes hold. The fungus’ location on the body determines its type. Though ringworm appears in many forms, they are all caused by the same organism and are treated in similar ways.

Symptoms of Ringworm

Classic ringworm presents itself as a round spot, with a darker border that grows with the infection. This type is found on the body in general, such as the arms or trunk, rather than the specific areas described below. While it may be called “classic ringworm,” most people will immediately recognize a couple of the other names for this fungus infection. In addition to classic ringworm, there are two other familiar names for the affliction. Jock itch, also known as tinea cruris, occurs as a reddish-brown rash on the groin and thighs. Some other conditions may appear to be jock itch, but are very different.

  • Tinea pedis: is the proper name for athlete’s foot. The classic appearance of athlete’s foot is scaling and inflammation of the webbed skin between the toes. Another common form causes the heels and soles of the feet to thicken or scale, and a third shows up as small blisters.

  • Tinea barbae: is ringworm of the area of the face and neck which can be covered by a beard. It appears as swollen, itchy, and often crusted areas.

  • Tinea faciei: is a ringworm infection on the other areas of the face. It can be identified by red, scaly patches with indistinct edges.

  • Tinea capitis: is an infection in the scalp. This often afflicts children and adolescents who contract it in school settings. Ringworm of the scalp is characterized by scaly bald spots.

  • Tinea manus: is ringworm of the hands. It is often found on the palms and between fingers. Many times, this type causes those areas to thicken, sometimes just on one hand rather than both.

  • Tinea unguium: is a ringworm infection of the finger or toenails. It makes them thick and brittle.

Ringworm exists in a variety of forms, but in nearly every case it causes itching and inflammation. These tell-tale signs can lead you to correctly diagnosing a fungal skin infection. From there, you can take appropriate steps for treating the condition.

Ringworm is caused by a fungus, not a parasite as the name implies. This particular fungus likes warm, moist places. It breeds in places on a person’s body that fit that description, such as in between the toes and in folds of skin. Ringworm feeds on keratin protein in the outer-most, non-living layer of skin. Once established on the skin, ringworm causes it to flake, scale, and itch. Certain types and more advanced cases are likely to cause the skin to actually split, crack and blister. Ringworm ranges from a mildly irritating affliction to a painful condition. However, due to its prevalence, there are many treatments for this fungus infection.

Treatments for Ringworm

The standard treatment for ringworm is a topical anti-fungal ointment such as miconazole or terbinafine. This is applied a couple of times a day until symptoms go away, usually within two weeks. If a case is more severe or the infection is hard to reach, such as on the scalp, a physician may prescribe an oral medication. Along with these traditional methods to deal with ringworm, there are several alternative, or home, remedies.

Some of the more effective home remedies for a fungal skin infection include onion or garlic extract; alcohol, which can be used to kill the fungus on the surface of the skin and diluted in a foot soak to dry the skin out after bathing; a hair dryer to eliminate moisture; and a soak in Epsom salts. Clear nail polish, applied over the infected area has proven effective in smothering and eliminating the fungus. Some treatments, like tea tree oil, are effective in suppressing the itch from the infection, but not in eradicating the fungus.

There are some things you can do to lessen the effects, and restrict the spread, of ringworm. Water is essential to the fungus. Robbing ringworm of moisture will limit its ability to grow and thrive and may even eliminate minor infections. To keep ringworm from migrating, clean clothing and bedding often Wash the laundry in hot water to kill the fungus. One of the worst financial situations you can find yourself in is one that includes a low credit score. When you have a low credit score, you might not be approved for the loans you need. Disinfect the bathroom and shower and use a separate towel to dry affected areas to prevent the infection from spreading.

Ringworm thrives in moist environments. Being aware of this is the most important thing to help you avoid picking up the fungus. Always wear sandals in public locker rooms and showers. Replace aging shoes or insoles. If sweating heavily, change socks or other clothes. Finally, use a talcum powder to absorb moisture in your shoes and on your body. You should also work to avoid exposure to the fungus. Wearing sandals in a locker room and shower is one effort in this direction. Do not share clothing and equipment that comes into contact with skin with other people. After a sweaty workout, wash with an anti-fungal soap.


Some sources estimate that as many as twenty percent of the population has a fungal skin infection. Among participants of certain sports, like wrestling, the rate of incidence is even higher. This is an extremely large number of people and makes likelihood of any random person contracting a fungal infection at some point in their lives almost certain.

While the odds are pretty good that you’ll run into the ringworm fungus sometime, there are many things you can do to reduce the chances of becoming infected. However, if you do happened to pick up a case of ringworm, there are also many ways of treating the condition, both traditional and alternative.

There are many molds, yeasts, and fungi in the world around us. Very few of them can infect a person’s skin. Ringworm is just one of those fungi which are capable of doing that. Ringworm infections are very common. Because of this, people have figured out many ways to avoid the fungus and treat infestations.

The most important of these methods is to keep yourself clean and dry. Even if an infection turns out to be more serious than home remedies can handle, pharmacies have several ringworm treatments available. Ringworm isn’t something to be overly concerned about, and shouldn’t keep you from going to gyms and other fitness centers.

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