Ringworms - An analysis

  • By Team TDO

There are many infections that literally, worm their way into our systems and bodies. Ringworm is one such infection. Well, ringworm has, in fact, nothing to do with worms, or for that matter, with anything parasitic, squiggly, or wormlike. Then why name it ringworm? And what in the world is it?

Ringworm is the name for a fungal infection that affects the skin. The name ringworm could have come about because of the whorl-like patterns, in which it appears on the skin, thus giving it the likeness of a worm snug, in the shape of a ring.

Ringworm, also known as ‘Tinea’, is a contagious infection which targets the ‘Keratin’, or the outer surface of the skin, hair and nails, where it thrives and festers. It is a common fungal infection, which can be passed on by touch or contact with contaminated surfaces.

It is normally seen as a crusty type of rash, which itches and can also be present in scalp hair or beards. Ringworm occurs in almost 20 % of the population and is quite common amongst athletes and wrestlers. Could it have a special affinity towards sports people? We can’t help but wonder! Tinea is named according to the location where it is found. Thus, ringworm in the beard, body, feet, groin, and scalp are called Tinea Barbae, Tinea Corporis, Tinea Pedis, Tinea Cruris and Tinea Capitis, respectively. The areas affected by ring worm are often easily apparent, as it forms reddish patches with sharply defined edges, which can multiply and spread to other areas as well. This is exactly what the conditions called ‘athlete’s foot’ and ‘jock itch’ are all about. They are both ringworm infestations.

How ringworm is commonly passed on?

Ringworm infections are mainly passed on through touch or contact with an infected person. Other than that, remember the fungus thrives in moist and wet places. So, they can be present on combs, swimming pool ladders, helmets and caps.

So, one must avoid sharing personal items like combs or brushes, lest they be infected, and always remember to dry them after use. Keratin is the substance which forms our nails, and thus ring worm can appear in clusters in the fingernails and toe nails, to feed on the keratin as well. This is why it is so important to maintain nail hygiene, at all times. Bald patches appear where ringworm strikes. It could be in a person’s beard or hair and requires medical supervision.

Is it life threatening?

While ringworm infection is not life threatening, it can certainly be embarrassing and somewhat uncomfortable. The condition can be treated with the use of anti-fungal creams and powders, but further medical intervention might be necessary for persistent infections.

One must maintain personal hygiene and take proper precautions like washing one’s clothes and bed sheets separately, while one is not totally infection free. It normally should heal within 4 weeks with antifungal medications, but if it doesn’t, you will certainly need to revisit your doctor.