Does ringworm itch?

Ringworm affecting the skin is one of several forms of ringworm, which is identified by development of a fungal infection of the topmost layer of skin. It can be identified by a distinct skin rash that is reddish, globular and itchy along with a non-stained, normal skin at the center. The name is derived from the ring-like appearance of the rash and has no relevance with the worm that can been seen beneath the skin.

The skin disorder is also known as tinea corporis. Ringworm can be linked with many similar types of fungal infections that also have similar nomenclature such as jock itch or tinea cruris, athlete’s foot or tinea pedis, and ringworm affecting the scalp or tinea capitis

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Symptoms of ringworm

A few signs and symptoms of ringworm are listed below:

  • A rounded skin rash is noticed. Such a skin anomaly elicits swelling, inflammation and redness along the periphery. The mid-section of the skin rash will remain unaffected and be healthy.
  • The skin can form globular, non-raised blotches which are prone to itchiness
  • One may also observe advancing rings of reddened, scaly skin with minor elevations. Such abnormalities mostly occur on the trunk or the face
  • Abnormal patches of ringworm infected rashes may occur as a solitary growth or in clusters. One may also observe minor overlapping of the red rings of skin rashes or blotches. It is important to note that patients may become infected by tinea and not experience the distinctive, red rings linked to ringworm rashes
  • Ringworm does result in itchiness, but generally does not lead to health complications, such as migration of the fungal infection to the deeper layers of the skin. Individuals with compromised immune system, like patients of cancers and those affected by HIV/AIDS, may however experience many difficulties in eradication of ringworm.

Is ringworm contagious?

Ringworm refers to a type of fungal infection and is similar to infections by other pathogens that cause anomalies in the body. The causative moldy, dermatophytes fungi are found to occur in the cells present in the top layer of skin.

Ringworm is a contagious condition and can migrate to humans in the following ways:

  • Ringworm infection can travel from an affected individual to another via direct contact with the affected skin of the patient
  • Ringworm infection can also spread via indirect contact, i.e. contact with contaminated materials such as combs, apparels, towels, linens, brushes and bedding. Sharing of use of such personal items increases the risk to developing ringworm
  • People who are directly exposed to animals infected by the condition can also develop ringworm. Healthy people can contact ringworm infections while petting or grooming an affected dog or cat. Contact with other animals like pigs, rabbits, goats, ferrets and horses can also result in spread of the infection
  • In rare instances, the fungus can migrate to humans via infected soil. However, such spread is only possible due to persistent and extended contact with completely infected soil.

How long is ringworm contagious?

The incubation period can last from 5 days to a week. It is normally contagious in its third stage, when you will blisters and rash forming.  Until the blisters ease away, ringworm remains contagious.

Causes and risk factors

A few risk factors which pose an elevated threat to developing ringworm infections are listed below:

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  • Extreme proximity to infected animals or other humans affected by ringworm infections
  • Damp, humid and overcrowded living environments
  • Use of personal items like clothing, bed sheets, towels, etc. that have been used by a patient of ringworm
  • Wearing restrictive or extremely tight clothes
  • Taking part in various types of contact sports like wrestling, rugby or football
  • Elevated levels of perspiration
  • An underlying case of a weakened immune system


  • Mild forms of itchy ringworm infections can cured with antifungal lotions, creams and ointments which can be purchased over the counter
  • A few types of antifungal topical drugs which help in the alleviation of ringworm symptoms include Clotrimazole, Terbinafine, Tolnaftate and Miconazole
  • Before applying the topical antifungal medications, one must wash the ringworm affected areas and tap it dry. The medicines can then be applied 2 times in a day for approximately 2 weeks, or one may follow the instructions on the package
  • Patients must ensure that the topical drugs cover at least an inch of area beyond the region infected by ringworm
  • When affected by severe cases of ringworm infections, or when use of non prescription medications prove to be ineffective, or when large areas of the body are affected, then one must consult a doctor.
  • The physician may advise oral and topical medicines to cure ringworm infections. However, since the oral drugs come with some side effects, they must be consumed only as per the doctor’s recommendations

Even though prevention of ringworm infection is quite difficult, due to the widespread occurrence of the causative and highly contagious fungus, one may follow the steps listed below as to avoid the skin disorder:

  • Adults and children must be educated about ringworm, its symptoms, causes and risk factors.
  • Sharing of personal effects with patients of ringworm should be strictly avoided
  • Use of loose apparels during hot and humid weather is recommended so as to avoid perspiration
  • Keep your hands and feet clean and maintain good levels of personal hygiene

Ringworm Images

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