Ringworm of the body
Ringworm is a skin infection that is caused by fungi. It is also called tinea.
Related skin fungus infections may appear:
Tinea corporis; Fungal infection - body; Tinea circinata; Ringworm - body
Fungi are germs that can live on the dead tissue of the hair, nails, and outer skin layers. Ringworm of the body is caused by mold-like fungi called dermatophytes.
Ringworm of the body is common in children, but can occur in people of all ages.
Fungi thrive in warm, moist areas. A ringworm infection is more likely if you:
Ringworm can spread easily. You can catch it if you come into direct contact with an area of ringworm on someone's body. You can also get it by touching items that have the fungi on them, such as:
Ringworm can also be spread by pets. Cats are common carriers.
The rash begins as a small area of red, raised spots and pimples. The rash slowly becomes ring-shaped, with a red, raised border and a clearer center. The border may look scaly.
The rash may occur on the arms, legs, face, or other exposed body areas.
The area may be itchy.
Exams and Tests
Your health care provider can often diagnose ringworm by looking at your skin.
You may also need the following tests:
Keep your skin clean and dry.
Use creams that treat fungal infections.
To use this medicine:
Your provider may prescribe medicine to take by mouth if your infection is very bad.
A child with ringworm can return to school once treatment has started.
To prevent the infection from spreading:
Infected pets should also be treated. This is because ringworm can spread from animals to humans by contact.
Ringworm often goes away within 4 weeks when using antifungal creams. The infection may spread to the feet, scalp, groin, or nails.
Two complications of ringworm are:
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your provider if ringworm does not get better with self-care.
Habif TP. Superficial fungal infections. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 13.
Hay RJ. Dermatophytosis (ringworm) and other superficial mycoses. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, Updated Edition. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 268.
Review Date: 10/8/2018
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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