Ringworm of the Body (Tinea Corporis): Symptoms, Causes, Risks, Complications, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

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A hand with ringworm

1Overview

The skin is the body’s first line of defense against various elements in the environment such as disease-causing microorganisms, environmental hazards, the scorching sun and the pollutants in the surroundings. As a result, it suffers various damage and infections. One of the pathogens that can affect the skin is fungi.

A common fungal infection, ringworm of the body or tinea corporis, develops on the skin and it is distinguished from other skin lesions by a red and circular rash. The middle part of the lesion is clear. Fortunately, the name of the condition is based on its appearance and no worm is involved in this disease.

Tinea infections are usually called ringworms because they form a ring-like pattern on some areas of the skin. This skin condition is contagious and can be passed to humans by direct contact with other people, contaminated objects such as towels, the soil and infected animals.

Tinea corporis is related to tinea pedis, which is more popularly known as athlete’s foot, tinea cruris or jock itch and tinea capitis, or the ringworm infection of the scalp.

Children who are below 15 years old are particularly prone to ringworm infections.

2Symptoms

The ringworm rash usually begins as a small area of red, flat and scaly raised sports.
The spot looked like a ring with red and raised border, as well as a clearer center. The rash can be seen anywhere in the body, but are more common in the face, arms, legs or the other exposed parts of the body.

The most common signs and symptoms include:

  • Itching
  • In severe cases, the ring will multiply and merge together
  • Blisters may form or pus-filled sores may form around the rings

When to call a healthcare professional:

You can call a healthcare professional if your signs and symptoms do not improve with
self-management measures. The doctor will perform further diagnostic tests and will prescribe the recommended medical treatment for the condition.

What are the Symptoms of Ringworm?

3Causes

Tinea fungal infections are caused by a specific type of fungi, dubbed as dermatophytes. These fungi live off keratin, a strong and water-resistant tissue found in the body like the skin, hair, and nails.

How it spreads:

Ringworm infection is contagious and can be passed from person to person, and through other direct contact methods. The fungi are small spores which are strong enough to survive on the skin for months, even on other objects such as towels and combs.
They live in both warm and moist environments. These places are ideal for fungal growth.
This explains why fungal infections often spread in showers and swimming pool changing rooms.

Tinea corporis can be spread through the following:

Human to human – The ringworm infection spreads by direct contact with one person to another. This happens when there is skin-to-skin contact with an infected individual.

Objects to human – Ringworm can spread when a person comes in contact with surfaces or objects that an infected person or animal has recently rubbed against or touched like linens, beddings, brushes combs, clothing, and towels.

Animals to human – People can get ringworm infection from animals by touching them. Infected animals can spread the infection when they’re groomed or petted.

Soil – In uncommon cases, ringworm can spread to humans when they come in contact with infected soil. Children are most commonly affected by ringworm infections because they tend to play outdoors in the playground, the soil or sandboxes. Make sure you clean your children’s hands and feet after playing outdoors.

What Causes Ringworm On Human Skin?

4Risk Factors

People are at a higher risk of developing ringworm if they:

  • Live in warm and humid climates
  • Share towels, beddings or towels with an infected person
  • Wear restrictive or tight clothing
  • Have immunosuppression
  • Have a close and physical contact with an infected person
  • Contact sports athletes
  • Children who love to play outdoors or animals who play outside the house or in the backyard.
  • Hyperhidrosis, which is a disease where the individual sweats more than usual

High-risk groups:

Some people are predisposed to having ringworm infection:

  • Older adults
  • Babies, toddlers, and children
  • African-Caribbean race
  • Those with Type 1 diabetes
  • Those with Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
  • Those with weakened immune systems
  • Overweight or obese
  • Those who are undergoing chemotherapy or any procedure that weakens the immune system
  • Those taking steroids
  • Those with atherosclerosis
  • Those with poor circulation

5Complications

Fungal infections may rarely spread to underlying skin structures and these infections seldom cause serious complications. However, in people with suppressed immune systems, like those who have HIV or AIDS, it may be hard to get rid of the fungal infection.

In some cases, however, the infection may still affect or spread below the surface of the skin. That is why early treatment is important to make sure the infection is stopped before it can cause complications.

Also, just like other skin infections, ringworm of the skin may lead to having an irritated, itchy, broken and open skin, which can lead to secondary bacterial infections.
Bacterial infections may lead to serious complications like cellulitis, impetigo, and systemic infections if they’re not treated appropriately.

When it comes to the prognosis of ringworm on the skin, the condition goes away within four weeks after using antifungal creams. However, if not treated, it can spread to the other parts of the body including the nails, groin, feet, and scalp.

6Diagnosis

A doctor can diagnose the ringworm on the skin through a complete medical history and physical examination. By simply looking at the lesion, the doctor can immediately diagnose the disease. In some cases, the doctor may still take some skin scrapings from the infected area to be examined under a microscope.

The doctor will also assess whether the skin is caused by fungi or another skin condition called psoriasis. After the treatment and the skin condition has not improved, that’s the time the doctor will request for further testing in the laboratory.

7Treatment

Treating tinea fungal infections may involve medical treatment and self-management measures.

Most tinea fungal infections like ringworm are easily treated and managed through the use of antifungal creams, shampoo, and tablets. Creams that contain clotrimazole, ketoconazole, miconazole, terbinafine, or oxiconazole are effective in managing and controlling ringworm. These medicines are available over-the-counter but it’s important to ask for the recommendation of the doctor or a dermatologist. Self-medication is not recommended, especially for young children.

Self-care tips

  • Wash the affected areas every day and dry thoroughly. Do not forget to clean the skin folds and the areas between the toes
  • Wash the clothes, beddings, towels, and blankets frequently. You can sun dry them to kill the fungi.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes, with the texture made of cotton.
  • Use a new towel and washcloth every time
  • Clean the bathtubs, sinks and bathroom floors every after use. Use bleach and other cleaning products.
  • Infected dogs or other animals should be treated

8Prevention

Ringworm of the skin is hard to prevent, especially if you’re included in the high-risk groups. It is a common and contagious even before the signs and symptoms appear. The risk of contracting ringworm can be reduced through the following preventive measures:

  • Learn more about the risk of ringworm and how it spreads. This way, you can educate your children about ringworm and how to reduce the risk of getting it.
  • Keep the house clean by making sure all the linens and clothing are washed and dried effectively.
  • Practice proper personal hygiene.
  • Wash your hands properly and frequently to prevent the spread of infection. Also, keep common or shared areas like bathrooms, day care centers, gyms and locker rooms clean and disinfected.
  • Stay cool and dry by not wearing thick cloths for long periods in warm temperatures. This will prevent excessive sweating. Moist and wet areas are prone to fungal infections.
  • Avoid touching or petting infected animals. If your pet is infected, bring him to the veterinarian for immediate treatment.
  • Do not share personal items such as combs, towels, clothing, and hairbrushes. Avoid borrowing the items from others.
  • If you have a ringworm infection already, be sure to maintain good personal hygiene and avoid scratching the lesions on the affected skin.
  • After a shower, make sure you dry the skin well, especially in areas where there are skin folds and in between the toes. Also, pay extra attention to the groin and armpits.
  • Use hypoallergenic skin products and avoid using products that are irritating and could cause dry skin.
  • Everyone in the house should check on themselves for signs and symptoms of ringworm. This way they can prevent further spread of the condition to other members of the family.
  • Do not wear tight clothing especially if the weather is warm and humid.
  • Avoid excessive sweating. Wipe the sweat or take a shower.
  • Do not walk around barefoot, especially in the comfort rooms or shower rooms
  • Washcloths in hot water with fungicidal soap and let it dry in the sun. Fungi can’t survive hot temperatures, especially when exposed to the scorching sun.