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Ringworm: Symptoms, Causes and Cures

Ringworm, also known as Tinea, has nothing to do with worms, but is a fungal infection that can occur anywhere on the body. On the skin, it is generally characterized by a slightly raised, usually red or brown colored patch of skin, with a light center, forming a ring shape. A ringworm infection on the scalp will usually cause a bald spot with scaly skin.

Ringworm affecting the scalp will start as an itchy bump that spreads, causing scaly skin that may also cause hair to fall out in the affected area. Ringworm affecting the fingernails will cause the nails to turn white or yellow and brittle.

It is important to note, though, that not all ringworm infections cause a ring shape, and not all ring shapes are caused by the ringworm fungus. A physical examination by a medical professional can confirm the presence of ringworm.

Tinea is the medical name for a group of related skin infections, including athlete's foot, jock itch, and ringworm. These infections are caused by fungi called dermatophytes that live on the dead tissues of the skin, hair, and fingernails.

The parasitic fungus that causes ringworm thrive best on skin that is warm, moist and hidden from light. It is very common, especially among children and is contagious; it can be spread by direct contact between humans and animals. It can be passed from human to human, and also from animal to human, just by physical contact.

To contract ringworm, you have to be exposed to it, and you also have to be susceptible to it. Some people are more susceptible than others, and generally children are more susceptible than adults. Ringworm starts as an itchy ring on the skin, and can actually cause skin lesions on other parts of the body. These lesions are fungus-free and generally disappear after treatment of the fungal infection.

Treatments can be purchased without a prescription, and usually contain anti-fungal medication. The itching and scaling that occurs with the infection, though, can interfere with the medication, so you can use creams that contain hydrocortisone to help with the itching. Most ringworm infections clear up within a week or two with treatment.

A fungal infection underneath fingernails or on the scalp can be difficult to treat, and often require oral medication rather than a topical cream.

To prevent ringworm, it is suggested to not share clothing or towels, shower after contact sports, and keep your skin clean and dry. It may also be necessary to continue topical treatments for two to four weeks after the fungal infection disappears.

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