What is a Ringworm?
Ringworm which is medically referred to as Dermatophytosis is a fungal infection affecting the skin. Unlike the name, this infection has no connections with worms of any type. This infection can affect any body part and is named depending on the part of the body that is affected. Ringworm is a superficial skin infection and does not go beyond the surface of the skin.
Ringworms affecting the feet are termed as Tinea Pedis and those in the groin are known as Tinea Cruris. If the infection is in the chin or areas where the beard of a man grows then it is termed as Tinea Barbae. Ringworms on the scalp is named as Tinea Capitis.
Ringworms are extremely contagious and are caused by fungus that infiltrates the skin surface. This infection is transmitted from direct contact with an infected individual. This may be by way of a handshake or hugging.
Pets like dogs and cats often carry these fungi on their skin. Petting them or playing with them may cause the fungi to come in contact with the skin surface and cause infection. Farms animals like cows and lambs are also carriers of these fungi.
An individual can also get infected by ringworm by coming in contact with certain objects used by an infected person. This may be clothing, eating utensils, or linens. In some cases, especially those working in farms this infection can spread by coming in contact with contaminated soil. This article highlights some of the first symptoms of Ringworm Infection.
What are the First Signs of a Ringworm?
The presenting features of Ringworm vary depending on the area which has been infected. The primary symptom of ringworm of ringworm depends on the location of the infection. They typically include severe itching on the affected area. The surface of the skin becomes erythematous and cracked. Scales also form on the affected skin surface. It is then followed by development of a circular rash which is a classic presentation of a ringworm infection.
The symptom onset is generally a week to 10 days after contracting the infection. Ringworm starts off with slightly raised red colored spots on the skin surface. These sores at the beginning may look a bit moist but gradually they lose their moisture and the blisters become dry and scaly with sensation of severe itching.
The sores then slowly grow and after a few days the sores slowly fade away leaving behind a circular ring of erythematous infection. The center of the infection remains dry, scaly, and clear. In case if the patient scratches the infected area it may lead to a break in the skin surface causing bacterial infection.
The infection may further spread if the patient touches the infected area and then goes on to scratch an unaffected area of the body. Thus identifying the condition in its early stages is extremely crucial for prompt treatment of the condition and also to prevent spread of infection. If ringworm develops on the feet the skin between the toes becomes swollen and red with an itching sensation.
In case the infection develops in the groin then the sores will develop on the inner portion of the thighs. Similarly, if a ringworm infection develops around the area where the beard grows then the characteristic blisters will be observed around the cheeks and chin.
It is therefore highly recommended that if any of these symptoms are observed then the individual go straight to a dermatologist to identify whether it is a ringworm or not and start getting treated for it.
What Happens if Ringworm is Not Treated?
If a ring worm is left untreated then it may lead to various complications. The skin tends to become irritated and the area is extremely painful. Secondly, the urge to scratch the area is so much that the individual has to give in. This leads to breaks on the skin surface through which bacteria can enter the body causing bacterial infection.
The bacterial infection further complicates the picture and the patient will have to be put on a course of antibiotics to treat it. Last but not the least, if ringworm is not treated then the chances of it spreading to other parts of the body is extremely high. If the rash spreads to the face or other exposed areas of the body it cosmetically does not look good and the patient may further spread the infection to others around him.
However, ringworm is a completely treatable infection and once treatment is started the contagiousness goes away and the rashes caused by it start to fade and eventually go away thus completely curing the patient.
How Long Does Ringworm Take to Heal?
In case if an individual does not get treated for a ringworm infection, it may take an awful lot of time for the sores and the infection to go away on its own to the tune of up to four to six months. In some cases, they even become chronic. However with prompt treatment the rashes quickly fade away. The treatment should be continued even after the rashes disappear for at least a month to completely eliminate the fungus that caused the infection.
The frontline treatment for Ringworm is application of antifungal creams on the affected area. Clotrimazole is the medication of choice for treatment of ringworms. These antifungal creams are easily available over the counter and do not required a signed prescription from a physician.
It usually takes up to a week for the blisters to completely go away after the application of these antifungal creams. Even when the sores have gone away the cream still needs to be applied for at least a week more to the affected area to completely eliminate the fungus. The contagiousness of the infection goes away almost immediately after the start of the treatment even though touching or rubbing the infected area should be avoided.
If the infection involves the nails or the scalp then it becomes a bit tricky to actually treat them completely. For this, prolonged course of medication is required which may include topical as well as oral course of antifungal medications. Ringworm infection in the scalp may lead to alopecia and hence it is mandatory to treat this condition aggressively.
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