This week Dr. Roarty of Scally McDaid Roarty Medical Practice discusses a common skin condition seen in every GP practice.
First of all, there are no worms, even if the name suggests otherwise! Ringworm is an infection of the skin which is caused by a fungus.
As discussed in earlier articles fungi can infect the nails but also the skin or the hair. It is passed from person to person for example by touching someone who has the infection, or their towels, clothes or bedclothes etc. Even inanimate objects such as chairs can pass the infection if someone who has ringworm has been in contact with it.
Ringworm is also a zoonotic disease which means that it can be passed from animal to humans. Dogs, cats and other small furry’s can have fungal infections as well as farm animals such as cattle.
If you suspect your pet may be the culprit take them to the vet for treatment also. Touching farm gates where cattle with ringworm have brushed against may be sufficient to pick up the infection.
It is also possible to pick up fungal infections from the soil, though this is rarer.
What are the symptoms?
The infection tends to develop from a small area of infected skin which spreads outwards. This usually appears like a rounded inflamed red area which is more inflamed and scaly towards the outside and paler towards the centre (thus the ring part in the name). The patch may be single or there may be multiple patches ( more likely multiple if you picked it up from handling an infected animal) and gets bigger over time. It is usually itchy and annoying. Sometime other skin rashes may look a bit like ringworm eg psoriasis.
So how is it treated Doctor?
Generally, we advise keeping the affected area clean and dry and avoid sharing towels etc. Hard as it might be, we should try to avoid scratching as this may spread the infection.
Antifungal creams may be obtained over the counter or on prescription. It is important to follow the application frequency accurately as some are once a day while others twice or even three times a day.
It is also important to continue the treatment for the full duration advised, even if your infection appears to be starting to clear. Some creams are not advised for children.
If the skin is very inflamed your doctor may also prescribe a mild steroid cream to help settle the inflammation for the first week of treatment.
Antifungal tablets are sometimes prescribed if the infection is quite bad or widespread.
Again children may not be able to take certain tablets or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. People with certain medical conditions such as liver disease or chronic lung disease may not be able to take anti-fungal tablets.
Once treatment has been started it is not necessary to avoid school or work.
The above information is intended as advice only and should you have any concerns please contact your own Doctor.
Dr Ciarán Roarty MB, BCh BAO MICGP DRCOG Grad. Cert. Obst. Ultrasound is a full-time GP at Scally McDaid Roarty Medical Practice, Scally Place, Letterkenny, Tel 0749164111