Donate For AAD Members Search

American Academy of Dermatology Logo
Welcome!
Advertisement
Advertisement

Ringworm: Signs and symptoms


Is it ringworm?

What do athlete’s foot, jock itch, and barber’s itch all have in common? They are all cases of ringworm. However, despite its name, ringworm is a skin infection caused by a fungus, not a worm. It is very common, and your risk increases in hot, humid weather.

If you have a rash and notice any of the symptoms in this video, see a board-certified dermatologist for treatment.

What are the signs and symptoms of ringworm?

Ringworm is an infection caused by fungus. You can get ringworm anywhere on your skin.

On most areas of the skin, it causes ring-shaped patches. What you see, however, changes when ringworm grows on the feet (bottoms and sides), palms, nails, groin, beard area, or scalp.

Skin with ringworm infection

  • Roundish, flat patches that have a raised, scaly border

  • On light-colored skin, the patches tend to be red or pink

  • On skin of color, the patches are usually brown or gray

  • Patches can grow slowly, increasing in size and appearing on more areas of the body

  • The center of a patch tends to clear first

  • The patches can be intensely itchy

Ringworm infection on the skin

A ringworm infection on the skin is indicated by roundish, flat patches that have a raised, scaly border.

Feet with ringworm infection (athlete's foot)

  • Itching, burning, and stinging on your soles and between your toes

  • Dry, scaly skin that usually begins between the toes and can spread to the bottom of the feet, sides, or both

  • Peeling skin​

  • Blisters, painful cracking skin, bleeding, and thick patches of red and scaly skin

  • Skin between the toes turns white, becoming soft and mushy

  • Foul odor

  • Rash on one or both hands because touching the infected foot can spread the infection to your hands

Ringworm infection between the toes

Signs of a ringworm infection on the feet can be indicated by itching, burning, and stinging on your soles and between your toes.

Ringworm infection on the sole of foot

Dry, scaly skin that usually begins between the toes can spread to the bottom of the feet, sides, or both.

Hand with ringworm infection

  • Widespread, dry skin on the palm

  • Deep cracks on the palms

  • Infection may spread to the fingernails (see nails below)

  • Can be mistaken for extremely dry skin or dry, thick skin due to working with hands

  • Ring-shaped patches on the back of the hand

  • May get athlete’s foot from touching your feet

Ringworm infection on the hand

Signs of a ringworm infection on the hands can be widespread, with dry skin and deep cracks on the palm. There may also be ring-shaped patches on the back of the hand.

Nails with ringworm infection

  • Can infect one or several nails

  • Begins with thickening of the tissue under the nail (nail bed)

  • Nails discolor and thicken

  • Thickened nails may start to lift away from the nail bed

  • Crumbling nails

  • Disappearing nails (in time, you see less of the nails)

  • Toenails more likely than fingernails to become infected

  • Often develops in people who have athlete’s foot for a long time

Nails with ringworm infection

Signs of a ringworm infection on the nails begins with thickening of the tissue under the nail. Nails will also discolor and may start to lift away from the nail bed.

Ringworm infection on several nails

A ringworm infection can infect several nails.

Groin with ringworm infection (jock itch)

  • First sign: A red (brown or gray in dark skin) rash with swelling and itch in the crease where the leg meets the body

  • Rash spreads to the groin then slowly reaches the inner thigh (shown here), waist, and buttocks

  • Infected skin often feels scaly and has a raised border

  • Skin can flake, peel, and crack

  • Infected skin can be intensely itchy and painful, but not always

Groin with ringworm infection

The first sign of a ringworm infection in the groin is a red (brown or gray in dark skin) rash with swelling and itch in the crease where the leg meets the body.

Beard area with ringworm infection

This develops in men who can grow facial hair. Most men get it when they have contact with infected animal, which may explain why farmers and ranchers seem to develop it more often. Signs and symptoms appear on the bearded area of the face and neck, and you may notice:

  • Intense redness and swelling

  • Pus-filled bumps

  • Hair loss (hair often returns when ringworm is treated)

  • Swollen lymph nodes

  • Raw, open skin

  • Raised soft, spongy skin that weeps fluid

  • A skin problem that looks like acne, folliculitis, or another skin condition

  • Some men feel tired and rundown

Beard area with ringworm infection

A ringworm infection can develop in men who can grow facial hair. Signs appear on the bearded area of the face and neck.

Scalp ringworm

  • A scaly bald patch

  • Widespread baldness with thick, crusty patches on the scalp

  • Black dots in the bald area

  • Open sores oozing pus

  • Raised soft, spongy, inflamed area

  • Swollen lymph nodes

  • Intense itch

Scalp ringworm

Signs of a ringworm infection on the scalp can include widespread scaly patches, in addition to baldness with thick, crusty patches on the scalp.

If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, you should see a dermatologist. You could have ringworm or another type of skin infection. Treatment can cure a skin infection.


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

References
Gupta AK and Lynch LE. “Fungal and yeast infections.” In: Kelly AP and Taylor S. Dermatology for Skin of Color. (first edition). The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. China, 2009:427-8.

Habif TP, Campbell, JL, et al. “Fungal infections.” In: Dermatology DDxDeck. Mosby Elsevier, China, 2006: Cards# 72, 75, 76, 77, 78, 80, and 81.

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.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Find a dermatologist by location
Advanced search
Find a dermatologist by name
Advanced search