While the condition is actually the result of a fungal infection by an organism called a dermatophyte, the name ringworm has stuck. It wasn’t until 1841 that anyone realized fungus could be responsible for ringworm. In that year, Hungarian physician David Gruby demonstrated that favus, a ringworm of the scalp, was caused by fungal infection. Unfortunately his research was largely ignored.
In 1934 Chester Emmons published a careful study of several species of dermatophytes, which helped pave the way for our modern understanding of the disease. When American servicemen started contracting ringworm in the humid Pacific Theater during WWII, the U. Before that study, scattered studies of dermatophytes conducted in isolation had led researchers to give about 1,000 different names to about 350 species of related fungus. That study made great progress in clearing up much of the confusion. How Do You Get Ringworm? Ringworm fungi are known as dermatophytes. Although the world is full of yeasts, molds, and fungi, only a few cause skin problems.
Ringworm fungi are known as dermatophytes — microscopic organisms that feed on the dead tissues of your skin, hair, and nails, much like a mushroom can grow on the bark of a tree. Dermatophytes cause superficial infections—so-called because they occur on the surface of the skin. Ringworm is more common in unsanitary and crowded places. That’s because it can live on both skin and surfaces like shower floors, and can be transferred by sharing clothes, sheets, and towels. Even other mammals, including cats and dogs, can easily transfer ringworm to humans. What Are the Types of Ringworm?
Multiple forms of ringworm affect different parts of the body. Keep in mind that the various types of ringworm don’t refer to specific fungal species—more than one species of fungus can cause many of the different forms of ringworm. Instead, the names of different ringworm types refer to where they occur on the body. Tinea corporis refers to ringworm of the trunk, legs, or arms. Different fungi cause tinea corporis in different parts of the world. It’s common for this infection to originate in the feet or nails, then spread to other body parts. When fungus affects the skin of the body, it often produces the round spots of classic ringworm, which is characterized by a red ring of scaly skin that grows outward as the infection spreads.
Though children are especially susceptible to catching ringworm, it can affect adults as well. Tinea corporis can be acute or chronic. When acute, the fungus causes suddenly appearing, itchy, red patches that may fill with pus and spread rapidly. When chronic, tinea corporis spreads by slightly inflamed rashes more slowly, and tends to appear in body folds. Widespread chronic tinea corporis is harder to treat and is more likely to reappear. How Fast Can Ringworm Be Treated? With treatment, tinea corporis usually goes away within four weeks.
Avoid scratching, as this may lead to skin infection. This rash may resemble a target or a bullseye, and it usually has raised edges. Eczema and other rashes may appear similar to ringworm, but they require very different treatment. One note of caution, though—another skin disease can also cause bullseye rashes. One way to tell the difference is the raised lines that usually accompany ringworm rashes. While ringworm is caused by a fungus, Lyme disease is bacterial, so again, treatment for the two skin conditions is very different. Because of the serious consequences of Lyme disease, anyone in doubt should seek medical attention immediately.
Tinea manuum finds its way onto human hands through either soil, animals, or human contact. This form of ringworm is fairly uncommon and frequently confused with other skin conditions. Often these symptoms are also present on both feet. Tinea unguium is usually caused by one of two fungi: Trichophyton rubrum or T. Although tinea unguium can refer to fungal infection of the fingernails or toenails, toenails are much more likely to contract this disease. Those especially prone to ringworm of the nails include men, older adults, diabetics, people with peripheral vascular disease, or anyone with a compromised immune system. Without proper treatment, a nail infected with this fungal infection is at risk of falling off. Tinea faciei refers to ringworm infections on the face. Tinea capitis is most common in children between the ages of 3 and 7, and is less often found in adults.