Ringworm, contrary to its name, is caused by a form of fungus
called a dermatophyte
, which describes its affinity for the skin
There are four types of ringworm, each different, which affect the feet (athlete's foot), the body (including jock itch & very similar to athlete's foot), the scalp and the nails. It is highly contagious, passing through either direct contact or through contact with a hard object the infected person has recently touched. Pets such as cats and dogs can also get ringworm and can be a source of contagion as well. Rarely, it can be contracted by contact with soil containing the fungus. Often it is very difficult to trace the source of the infection.
It is commonly believed that ringworm of the body is spread through contact with infected cats. Healthy adult cats can clear up the infection on it's own in 3 to 4 months, but the chance of reinfection is high. Signs that your cat or dog may have ringworm include loss of hair or short, brittle hair in the affected area. There is a vaccine currently marketed for ringworm for cats, but studies have shown that it does not help to prevent it, but does help to reduce symptoms.
In humans, ringworm of the foot is fairly common and many over-the-counter fungal agents are available. This particular form, as well as ringworm of the nails, is only found in humans. Ringworm of the scalp is found in humans and animals, while ringworm of the body is found in humans, animals, and the soil.
Ringworm of the scalp and foot both have symptoms of dry, scaly skin which usually itches. On the scalp, there may be hair loss and the hair that grows in is dry and brittle and on feet it will often result in a build-up of skin between the toes. It can also result in deep blisters on the soles of the feet which do not itch and eventually dry up and turn to brown crusts. Ringworm of the nails results in discoloration, often turning the nails yellow or white and chalky and results in brittleness or possibly even crumbling if the condition is left untreated.
Ringworm of the body has the widest range of possible symptoms and can be found anywhere on the body other than the three areas coverd by other ringworms. Often, ringworm of the body will first appear as a small round discoloration, looking much like an insect bite at first, and will eventually become larger if untreated. As it grows, the center will become clear, leaving a raised ring around the outside, thus leading to the name "ringworm." The infected area will continue to grow if left untreated and also spread to other parts of the body through contact, and to others through contact and sharing of objects such as combs or blankets. Also, such areas as countertops can be a source of spreading fungal infection.
There are various treatments for ringworm. As mentioned there are many treatments for fungal infections available over the counter at the local pharmacy as well as many treatments that can be gained by prescription after visiting your doctor. There are also some "home remedies." One popular one for athletes foot is the solution of urinating on the affected region. This is supposed to be effective due to the ammonia content of urine. Another, less stigmatic approach, is the application of cider vinegar.
I have had ringworm of the body. When we were young, both my brother and I had ringworm on more than one occasion. I was taken to the doctor once and my mother was told to keep me home, clean all my bedding, shear the cats and keep them out of the house and to disinfect all surfaces. What actually occured was the same as every other time I'd had it. My mother applied cider vinegar, put a Band-Aid over it and we went about our lives. It was gone within a week and no reinfection or spreading occured. Since we only ever got ringworm of any sort while living in that one location, I suspect it was through a transfer from soil rather than from animals or other infected humans.
There are other E2 denizens who have had the misfortune to have this fungus, including:
- adamwolf - who had a major outbreak over several areas
- akf2000 - who developed a fear of cats afterword
- jasonm - who had scalp ringworm as a child
- tres equis - who has had recurring ringworm of the foot and one instance of the body
if you want to be included in the listing, /msg me and I will add you