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Classification and external resources

Ringworm on a human leg.
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"Ringworm" redirects here. For the band, see Ringworm (band); Not to be confused with Roundworm, Pinworm, or Hookworm.
Classification and external resources

Ringworm on a human leg.

Dermatophytosis or ringworm is a clinical condition caused by fungal infection of the skin in humans, pets such as cats, and domesticated animals such as sheep and cattle. The term "ringworm" is a misnomer, since the condition is caused by fungi of several different species and not by parasitic worms. The fungi that cause parasitic infection (dermatophytes) feed on keratin, the material found in the outer layer of skin, hair, and nails. These fungi thrive on skin that is warm and moist, but may also survive directly on the outsides of hair shafts or in their interiors. In pets, the fungus responsible for the disease survives in skin and on the outer surface of hairs.

It has been estimated that currently up to twenty percent[citation needed] of the population may be infected by ringworm or one of the other dermatophytoses. It is especially common among people who play sports, wrestling in particular. Wrestlers with ringworm may be withheld from competition until their skin condition is deemed non-infectious by the proper authorities.[1]

Misdiagnosis and treatment of ringworm with a topical steroid, a standard treatment of the superficially similar pityriasis rosea, can result in tinea incognito, a condition where ringworm fungus will grow without typical features like a distinctive raised border.



A number of different species of fungi are involved. Dermatophytes of the genera Trichophyton and Microsporum are the most common causative agents. These fungi attack various parts of the body and lead to the conditions listed below. Note that the Latin names are for the conditions (disease patterns), not the agents that cause them. The disease patterns below identify the type of fungus that causes them only in the cases listed:

Signs and symptoms

Infections on the body may give rise to typical enlarging raised red rings of ringworm, infection on the skin of the feet may cause athlete's foot and in the groin jock itch. Involvement of the nails is termed onychomycosis, and they may thicken, discolour, and finally crumble and fall off.

They are common in most adult people, with up to 20 percent of the population having one of these infections at any given moment.[citation needed]

Dermatophytosis tends to get worse during summer, with symptoms alleviating during the winter.[citation needed] Animals such as dogs and cats can also be affected by ringworm and the disease can be transmitted between animals and humans (zoonotic disease).


Fungi thrive in moist, warm areas, such as locker rooms, tanning beds, swimming pools and in skin folds. It can be spread by sharing sport goods, towels, and clothing.


Advice often given includes:


Antifungal treatments include topical agents such as miconazole, terbinafine, clotrimazole, ketoconazole, or tolnaftate applied twice daily until symptoms resolve — usually within one or two weeks.[8] Topical treatments should then be continued for a further 7 days after resolution of visible symptoms to prevent recurrence.[8][9] The total duration of treatment is therefore generally two weeks,[10][11] but may be as long as three.[12]

In more severe cases or where there is scalp ringworm, systemic treatment with oral medications may be given.[13]

To prevent spreading the infection, lesions should not be touched, and good hygiene maintained with washing of hands and the body.[14]


Dermatophytosis has been prevalent since before 1906, at which time ringworm was treated with compounds of mercury or sometimes sulfur or iodine. Hairy areas of skin were considered too difficult to treat, so the scalp was treated with x-rays and followed up with antiparasitic medication.[15]

In other animals


Ringworm in pets may often be asymptomatic, resulting in a carrier condition which either infects other pets, or shows disease only when the companion animal develops an immunosuppressive condition. Circular bare patches on the skin suggest the diagnosis but no lesion is truly specific to the fungus (similar patches may result from allergies, sarcoptic mange, and other conditions). Three species of fungi cause 95% of dermatophytosis in pets[citation needed]: these are Microsporum canis, Microsporum gypseum, and Trichophyton mentagrophytes.

Veterinarians have several tests to identify ringworm infection and identify the fungal species that cause it:

Woods Test: This is a black light (ultraviolet light) with a magnifying lens. Only 50% of Microsporum canis will show up as an apple-green fluorescence on hair shafts, under the black light. The other fungi do not show. The fluorescent material is not the fungus itself (which does not fluoresce) but rather an excretory product of the fungus which sticks to hairs. Infected skin does not fluoresce.

Microscopic test: The vet takes hairs from around the infected area and places them in a staining solution to view under the microscope. Fungal spores may be viewed directly on hair shafts. This technique identifies a fungal infection in about 40%–70% of the infections but cannot identify the species of dermatophyte.

Culture Test: This is the most effective but also the most time-consuming way to determine if there is ringworm on a pet. In this test, the veterinarian collects hairs from the pet, or else collects fungal spores from the pet's hair with a toothbrush, or other instrument, and inoculates fungal media for culture. These cultures can be brushed with transparent tape and then read by the vet using a microscope, or can be sent to a pathological lab. The three common types of fungi which commonly cause pet ringworm can be identified by their characteristic spores. These are different-appearing macroconidia in the two common species of Microspora, and typical microconidia in Trichophyton infections.[16]

Identifying the species of fungi involved in pet infections can be helpful in controlling the source of infection. Microsporum canis, despite its name, occurs more commonly in domestic cats, and 98% of cat infections are with this organism.[citation needed] It can also infect dogs and humans, however. Trichophyton mentagrophytes has a major reservoir in rodents, but can also infect pet rabbits, dogs and horses. Microsporum gypseum is a soil organism and is often contracted from gardens and other such places. Besides humans, it may infect rodents, dogs, cats, horses, cattle, and swine.[17]


Treatment requires both systemic oral treatment with most of the same drugs used in humans—terbinafine, fluconazole, or itraconazole—as well as topical "dip" therapy.[18]

Because of the usually longer hair shafts in pets than humans, the area of infection and possibly all of the longer hair of the pet must be clipped, in order to decrease the load of fungal spores clinging to the pet's hair shafts. However, close shaving is usually not done because nicking the skin facilitates further skin infection.

Twice-weekly bathing of the pet with diluted lime sulfur dip solution is effective in eradicating fungal spores. This must continue for 3 to 8 weeks.[19]

Washing of household hard surfaces with 1:10 household hypochlorite bleach solution (too irritating to be used directly on hair and skin) is effective in killing spores.

Pet hair must be rigorously removed from all household surfaces, and then the vacuum cleaner bag (and often the vacuum cleaner itself) discarded when this has been done repeatedly. Removal of all hair is important, since spores may survive 12 months or even as long as two years on hair clinging to surfaces.[20]

See also


  1. ^ Decorby, MaryAnn, Director of the British Columbia Wrestling Association. " The Truth About Ring Worm". Retrieved 11 August 2009. 
  2. ^ Keeping footloose on trips by Lori Klemm, podiatrist, Will County Medical Associates S.C. for The Herald News April 2, 2008
  3. ^ Fort Dodge Animal Health: Milestones from Retrieved April 28, 2008.
  4. ^ a b Ringworm In Your Dog Cat Or Other Pet: Prevention by Ron Hines DVM PhD 5/4/06. Retrieved April 28, 2008.
  5. ^ InteliHealth:
  6. ^ Hammer, K. A.; Carson, C. F.; Riley, T. V. (2003). "Antifungal activity of the components of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil". Journal of Applied Microbiology 95 (4): 853–860. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2672.2003.02059.x. PMID 12969301. 
  7. ^ Fontenelle, R. O. S.; et al. (2007). "Chemical composition, toxicological aspects and antifungal activity of essential oil from Lippia sidoides Cham.". Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy 59 (5): 934–940. doi:10.1093/jac/dkm066. 
  8. ^ a b Kyle AA, Dahl MV (2004). "Topical therapy for fungal infections". Am J Clin Dermatol 5 (6): 443–51. PMID 15663341. 
  9. ^ McClellan KJ, Wiseman LR, Markham A (July 1999). "Terbinafine. An update of its use in superficial mycoses". Drugs 58 (1): 179–202. PMID 10439936. 
  10. ^ Tinea~treatment at eMedicine
  11. ^ Tinea Corporis~treatment at eMedicine
  12. ^ "Antifungal agents for common paediatric infections". Can J Infect Dis Med Microbiol 19 (1): 15–8. January 2008. PMC 2610275. PMID 19145261. // 
  13. ^ Gupta AK, Cooper EA (2008). "Update in antifungal therapy of dermatophytosis". Mycopathologia 166 (5-6): 353–67. doi:10.1007/s11046-008-9109-0. PMID 18478357. 
  14. ^ Ringworm on Body Treatment at eMedicineHealth
  15. ^ Sequeira, J. H. (1906) "The Varieties of Ringworm and Their Treatment", British Medical Journal,
  16. ^ "Ringworm in Dogs Diagnosis". Retrieved 2011-01-10. 
  17. ^ "General ringworm information". Retrieved 2011-01-10. 
  18. ^ [1] Detailed veterinary discussion of animal treatment
  19. ^ "Veterinary treatment site page". Retrieved 2011-01-10. 
  20. ^ "Persistance of spores". Retrieved 2011-01-10. 

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