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eMed previously Babylon Health


Reviewed by Dr Claudia Pastides, 25th April 2019

Ringworm is a very common fungal infection which, contrary to popular belief, isn’t anything to do with worms or parasites. The infection causes a tell-tale ring-shaped rash which is usually red or silvery in colour, and can be very itchy. It comes from a family of fungal infections called ‘tinea’, which includes athlete’s foot and fungal nail infections.

Ringworm can appear anywhere on the body, but it’s most common on the arms and legs. The condition isn’t dangerous but it can be very irritating, as well as causing embarrassment for the sufferer. Speak to a GP today to have your ringworm diagnosed and discuss antifungal treatment with a professional.

Causes of ringworm

Ringworm is caused by a type of fungus. This fungus can live on the skin or on household objects for months - especially if it’s somewhere warm and damp. Shared bathrooms, public gymnasiums and other communal spaces are often rife with ringworm and other fungi.

Ringworm is very contagious and can be spread in a number of ways. You can catch it from another human or animal (they may not show symptoms of ringworm - it’s possible to be a carrier of the fungus), as well as from objects that contain traces of the fungus.

Symptoms of ringworm

Ringworm gets its name from the ring-shaped rash that appears with the infection. This is usually red or silver, and the ring will feel slightly raised. The skin inside the ring may appear perfectly healthy. If left untreated, ringworm can become scaly and itchy, causing serious irritation for the sufferer. In very severe cases, the rings may multiply, and they can be accompanied by painful blisters and sores.

Treatment for ringworm

Ringworm is most commonly treated with simple antifungal products, including topical creams and oral tablets. These should be applied according to your GP’s directions, usually once or twice per day until the infection has subsided.

You can also take action to speed up the process, including keeping the area clean and dry, washing clothes, towels and bedlinen frequently, and wearing clothes made from natural materials like cotton. Ringworm is relatively easy to diagnose because of its clear ring shape and form. Once diagnosed, it can be treated within a matter of days. If you think you may have ringworm, speak to a GP today.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.