The name Ringworm conjures up the image of slithering worms burrowing under the skin. Something reminiscent of National Geographic photos showing a parasitic infestation from a third world country. Nonetheless, the real culprit is much less vile and much more common than the name would imply.
Tinea is the medical term for Fungus, its various forms simply incorporate the descriptor for body location. The term Ringworm is a misnomer used in popular culture to describe its shape and refers to the rash all over the body. Jock Itch is fungus in the groin and Athlete’s foot is common among the moist tootsies of sweaty athletic people, but can also affect the average non-active person, especially the elderly.
Tinea rashes are typically a superficial infection of fungus in the top layer, but a serious infection may go deeper. It can affect any skin on the body, the finger or toenails, and even hair. When it occurs in these areas it can cause a round scaly rash, peeling in-between the toes/soles/hands, flaky round spots in the scalp with hair loss, and thick, yellow nails.
It is easily spread from close contact person to person (especially wrestlers!) or through pets or contaminated objects like gym/pool/hotel floors, exercise equipment, shared towels, and shared clothing/shoes/hats/brushes.
Treatments for ringworm should be applied to the affected areas for four weeks. OTC therapies are often in one-percent creams and are different than what is offered by prescription. For infections that are resistant to treatment, stronger Rx medications are necessary. A group of medicines in the Azole category, which disrupt the cell membrane, such as Clotrimazole (Lotramin) and Miconazole (Desenex) are effective mainstays of OTC therapy. Tolnaftate (Tinactin) is an antifungal that also disturbs cell wall membranes but does not work well against yeast. However, it is not as effective on foot fungus “Athlete’s Foot” compared to other varieties. Terbinafine (Lamisil) is another common treatment from the Allylamine group and is considered one of the most efficacious. It disrupts fungal cell walls, causing a lethal fate to fungi. In some studies it showed better outcomes than prescription ketoconazole topicals.
The gamut of prescription treatments is vaster and yields higher performing compounds in addition to oral treatment options. There are Rx topicals in the Allymine group, which also carry anti-inflammatory properties like Naftin or Mentax. The Azoles make up a more hefty list with brands like Nizoral, Oxistat, Spectazole, Exelderm, and Ertaczo. They have good coverage against a wide variety of fungi. Ciclopirox is anti-fungal and anti-yeast and is shown to work better than clotrimazole OTC for foot fungus.
The oral arsenal are great for severe fungal infections or those in hair bearing areas. Lamisil, Sporonox, Grifulvin, Gris-Peg, and Nizoral may be a few your clinician will choose from based on age and other existing illnesses. The treatment course may be 2-6 weeks.
Yet, generally speaking, it’s best to prevent fungus by avoiding conditions that it likes. Keep areas on your body that easily lock moisture, dry, like under breasts, groin, buttock, and toes. Although a daily anti-fungal powder like Zeasorb-AF can be beneficial for sweat prone pockets. Wear breathable materials like cotton to wick away moisture and cover feet with sandals or shoes in common use facilities. Avoid sharing clothing, towels, or hair devices/coverings.
Yet, when all else fails, and the fungal worms start slithering through your epidermis, seek help with a medical professional.
*The information provided above or in any blogs on this site is for educational purposes only. It does not replace advice or necessary examination and diagnosis from your healthcare clinician. Please see your healthcare provider for any and all concerns with changes in your health or treatment of disease.*