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Ringworm: Overview


What is ringworm?

If you have ringworm, you may think you have worms in your skin or a disease caused by worms. You have neither. Ringworm is actually a skin infection caused by fungus. No worms involved.

The name “ringworm” probably comes from the rash that many people see. On the skin, the rash often has a ring-shaped pattern and a raised, scaly border that snakes its way around the edge like a worm.

Ringworm

A rash with a raised, wavy border is a common sign of ringworm.

Ringworm is common. You’ve already had it if you had:

  • Athlete’s foot

  • Jock itch

  • Scalp ringworm

Ringworm can appear on just about any part of your body. On the palms, soles, scalp, groin, and nails, the rash lacks the ring-shaped pattern. On the soles and groin, ringworm also has a different name.

Part of the body
NameMedical name
Skin
Ringworm Tinea corporis
Feet (soles)
Athlete's foot
Tinea pedis
Hands (palms)
Ringworm Tinea manuum
Groin area
Jock itch
Tinea cruris
 Nails Nail infection
 Tinea unguium or onychomycosis


No matter where ringworm appears on the body, treatment is important. Without treatment, the rash tends to grow slowly and cover a larger area. You can also infect other areas of your body.

Treatment can get rid of the ringworm and stop the itch, which can be intense. Because ringworm is contagious, treatment can also prevent you from spreading it to others.


Image
Image used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides.

References
Sobera JO and Elewski BE. “Fungal diseases.” In: Bolognia JL, et al. Dermatology. (second edition). Mosby Elsevier, Spain, 2008:1138-46.

Verma S and Heffernan MP. “Superficial fungal infections.” In: Wolff K, Goldsmith LA, et al. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine (seventh edition). McGraw Hill Medical, New York, 2008: 1807-16.

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