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Ringworm FAQs

Reviewed by on January 11, 2016

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Q:Ringworm is caused by a fungus. True or false?

A:True.

Ringworm, despite the name, is not caused by a worm. Rather, it is a skin infection caused by a fungus. Ringworm is very common and can affect anyone. Around 40 different types of fungus can cause ringworm. The fungi live on skin, surfaces, and household items. Itching of the skin is a symptoms of ringworm infection and begins 4-14 days after contact.

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Q:What describes the "ring" in ringworm?

A:The "ring" in ringworm is a red, circular skin rash that is associated with itching.

The rash can be scaly and cause cracked skin.

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Q:Animals can transmit ringworm to people. True or false?

A:True.

Different kinds of animals can transmit ringworm infection to people, particularly kittens and puppies. Although adult dogs and cats often do not show signs of infection, young animals may have hairless, circular or irregularly shaped patches that may or may not itch. Scaling, redness, and crusting are also seen in animals.

Note: The type of ringworm acquired from pets is not transmitted from human to human, only from animal to human.

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Q:What is the name for ringworm that affects the feet?

A:"Tinea" and "dermatophytosis" are medical terms for ringworm. Other terms for the condition depend upon the location of the infection. The following are some terms used to describe ringworm infection of specific body areas:
- Athlete's foot: ringworm of the feet
- Tinea cruris, commonly called "jock itch": ringworm of the groin
- Tinea capitis: ringworm of the scalp
- Ttinea barbae: ringworm of the beard
- Tinea manuum: ringworm of the hands
- Tinea unguium (also called "onychomycosis"): ringworm of the nails
- Tinea corporis: ringworm of other parts of the body such as arms or legs

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Q:Is ringworm contagious?

A:Yes.

Ringworm is contagious. It can be transferred by direct contact with the skin of infected people or by indirect contact with items like shower stalls, floors, or contaminated grooming utensils or surfaces.

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Q:With treatment, ringworm usually clears after about 2 to 4 weeks. True or false?

A:True.

Treatment depends on the location and severity of the ringworm infection. Examples of non-prescription products available to treat ringworm include clotrimazole, miconazole, Terbinafine (Lamisil), and Ketoconazole (Xolegel). Ringworm of the skin, like athlete's foot (tinea pedis) and jock itch (tinea cruris) can typically be treated with antifungal creams, lotions, or powders applied to the skin for 2 to 4 weeks.

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Q:What kind of ringworm requires a prescription treatment?

A:Creams, lotions, or powders are not effective against ringworm on the scalp, so Tinea capitis is typically treated with prescription antifungal medication taken by mouth for 1 to 3 months.

Medications that are used to treat scalp ringworm include griseofulvin (Grifulvin V®, Gris-PEG®), fluconazole (Diflucan®), terbinafine, or itraconazone (Onmel®, Sporanox®).

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Q:When should you contact a doctor?

A:You should contact your health-care provider if ringworm worsens or does not improve with use of non-prescription medications, or if the condition returns after treatment is complete.

You should also contact your health-care provider for ringworm on the scalp since prescription medications are necessary for this type of ringworm infection.

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