Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD. Patient Handout

About Your Diagnosis

Ringworm is a general term used to describe a very common type of skin infection. It is not caused by a worm at all but is actually caused by a fungus. Fungi are extremely small and can only be seen under a microscope. Fungi are found everywhere and they are contagious. They are transmitted from other individuals or animals. They can also be found in towels, carpet, bedding, showers, and baths. Ringworm is much more common in hot, humid weather. The diagnosis of ringworm can usually be made by its typical appearance on the skin. In unusual cases, a small scraping of an affected area can be examined under a microscope to confirm the diagnosis. Ringworm is curable but takes 2–4 weeks of treatment, sometimes longer.

Living With Your Diagnosis
Ringworm can occur anywhere on the body. On the skin, ringworm starts as slightly raised, red-tobrown round patches that itch. Ringworm is categorized by where it occurs.
• Tinea corporis: ringworm of the body.
• Tinea pedis: ringworm of the feet (athlete’s foot).
• Tinea capitis: ringworm of the scalp. This type of ringworm requires treatment with prescription medications; over-the-counter antifungal medications will usually not cure tinea capitis. As the patch enlarges a central clearing develops. Small blisters can occur with ringworm of the groin or feet. Itching is common and can be severe. Scratching can cause secondary infection.

Mild cases of ringworm can be treated with overthe- counter medications. Apply a small amount of antifungal cream, ointment, or powder to affected areas two times a day. Continue for 7 days after the areas have healed. If itching is severe, use calamine lotion twice a day. Aveeno Oatmeal bath can also help relieve itching. Benadryl taken by mouth every 4–6 hours is also helpful. If ringworm is not responsive to over-the-counter medicines, your doctor can prescribe a more potent cream to apply to the skin. Continue to use this for 7 days after the infection appears to be resolved to prevent recurrences. In severe cases that do not respond to medicine applied to the skin, a medicine taken by mouth once or twice a day can be used. Take this according to your doctor’s instructions. Ringworm of the scalp usually requires weeks to months of treatment with a medication taken by mouth.

The DOs
• Bathe or shower daily. Gently wash affected areas with a cloth, dry off, then apply cream or ointment.
• Always wear clean, dry clothing. Cotton or other absorbent clothing is best. Avoid man-made fabrics such as nylon.
• Keep moisture away from skin. It is very important to keep areas infected with ringworm clean and dry.

The DON’Ts
• Don’t share towels, clothing, or bedding.
• Avoid scratching because this can spread the infection or cause secondary infection.
• Avoid wearing clothing that chafes the skin.

When to Call Your Doctor
• If the rash has not improved after 2 weeks of treatment.
• If signs of a secondary infection develops such as fever, pus drainage, oozing, crusting, or swelling.
• If skin changes occur such as scarring or bleeding.