Ringworm is a skin infection caused by a fungus. Treatment with an antifungal cream usually works well.
Ringworm is a fungal skin infection. (It is not due to a worm as its name implies!) There are many types of fungal germs (fungi) and some can infect the skin, nails, and hair. This leaflet just deals with ringworm of the skin (sometimes called tinea corporis). Other leaflets deal with fungal infections of the scalp (scalp ringworm), foot (athlete's foot), groin (tinea cruris), and nails.
A small area of infected skin tends to spread outwards. It typically develops into a circular, red, inflamed patch of skin. The outer edge is more inflamed and scaly than the paler centre. So, it often looks like a ring that becomes gradually larger - hence the name ringworm. Sometimes only one patch of infection occurs. Sometimes several patches occur over the body, particularly if you catch the infection from handling an infected animal.
The rash may be mildly irritating, but sometimes it is very itchy and inflamed. The rash may vary depending on which type of fungus causes the infection. Sometimes fungal skin infections look similar to other skin rashes, such as psoriasis.
For a list of websites that contain pictures of skin conditions, including those of fungal skin infections, see www.patient.co.uk/showdoc/1097/
You can buy an antifungal cream from pharmacies, or get one on prescription. There are various types and brands - for example, terbinafine, clotrimazole, econazole, ketoconazole, and miconazole. These are good at clearing fungal skin infections.
An antifungal medicine taken by mouth is sometimes prescribed if the infection is widespread or severe. For example, terbinafine, griseofulvin, or itraconazole tablets.
Not all treatments are suitable for everyone. Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding, people with other conditions or who are on other medication, or children aged under 12 may not be able to use certain types. Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you come into one of these groups.
You do not need to stay off work or school once treatment has started. To prevent passing on the infection, do not share towels. Also, try not to scratch the rash, as this may spread the fungus to other areas of your body.