Key Points about Ringworm

  • Ringworm is a contagious skin infection caused by certain types of fungus.
  • Symptoms of ringworm include a patch or patches on the skin that are red, itchy, and scaly.
  • Ringworm is treated with over-the-counter or prescription antifungal medicines.
  • Call your doctor if your ringworm is still present after two weeks of treatment

Overview

Ringworm is a fungal skin infection that causes itchy and scaly red patches. Ringworm is contagious, and can spread through skin-to-skin contact, through contact with soil, or though contact with pets. You may be more likely to develop ringworm if you spend time in public pools or locker rooms, if you share clothes or athletic equipment with other people, or if you have pets.

Treatment for ringworm usually involves using an over-the-counter antifungal, although in some cases your doctor may prescribe a stronger treatment.

Call your doctor if you have symptoms of ringworm.

Ringworm causes

Ringworm is an infection caused by one of three types of fungi: trichophytonmicrosporum, or epidermophyton.

Ringworm is contagious, and can spread:

  • From an infected person to another person, through direct skin-contact or through touching shared objects such as combs, towels, clothes, and other surfaces
  • From soil that contains one of the fungi that it responsible for ringworm
  • From direct contact with cats or dogs that are infected with the fungus

Ringworm risk factors

You may be at an increased risk of developing ringworm if you:

  • Have a cat or dog as a pet, or spend lots of time around animals
  • Were exposed to the fungi while wet, such as after swimming
  • Were exposed to the fungi while you had cuts or injuries on your skin
  • Spend a lot of time barefoot

Ringworm symptoms

The main symptom of ringworm is a patch of skin that is red, itchy, and scaly. The patch may develop gradually into the shape of a ring or several rings, and may be clear-looking in the center with a raised perimeter.

Ringworm can be found on the scalp, groin area, foot, or anywhere on the body.

Ringworm prevention

Ringworm cannot always be prevented, but you can prevent its transmission by:

  • Wearing footwear in the locker room and in public pool areas
  • Keeping your clothes, towels, and sports gear clean
  • Wash your hands after touching your pets, and call their veterinarian if they have signs of ringworm
  • Maintain clean and dry hands and skin

Ringworm diagnosis

When diagnosing ringworm, your doctor will visually examine the affected area, and may scrape a skin sample to examine under the microscope.

Ringworm treatment

Treatment for ringworm will depend upon its severity and location. Your doctor will likely recommend an over-the-counter, topical antifungal treatment. When necessary, your doctor may prescribe a stronger treatment.

When to seek care

Call your doctor if you think you may have ringworm.

Next Steps

If your ringworm persists after two weeks of treatment, contact your doctor to follow up.