8 Symptoms of Ringworm

Ringworm is a contagious fungal infection that isn’t caused by a worm, despite the name. The condition gets its name from tell-tale skin rashes that have a ring-shaped pattern with a raised border like a worm. Also, known as tinea, this common infection comes in many forms and may affect the scalp, skin, and nails. While ringworm usually affects the limbs and abdomen, it can also occur around the groin and buttocks (commonly called jock itch or tinea cruris), the beard (tinea barbae), the feet (tinea pedia or athlete’s foot), and other areas.

Ringworm is very contagious and may be caught through direct skin contact, touching an infected animal, and touching a surface or object with the fungi. Children are more likely to get tinea, but it can happen at any age. Allowing the skin to stay wet can increase the risk of ringworm, especially in athletes who sweat a lot. Open wounds, even tiny ones, can also lead to an infection after contact with the fungi.

The good news is this fungal infection is easy to treat with over-the-counter medications. Watch for the following signs that you have a ringworm infection.

1. Hair Loss

Hair loss is common in areas affected by ringworm, especially in children. Sometimes hair in the center of a red circular rash seems bent or broken at the shaft. This is most commonly seen in male beards and ringworm of the scalp. Tinea capitis, or infection of the scalp, is most likely to lead to loss of hair and it’s the most common type of ringworm in school-age children between 3 and 7. It’s less often found in teenagers and adults. Ringworm fungi can infect the hair itself. This will initially lead to dry scaling of the scalp like dandruff. Loss of hair may be first apparent as dots of hair that have broken off at the scalp, but eventually a smooth spot will be left when the hair falls off. This is because the fungus can enter hair fibers and cause hair to become brittle and break. Some people develop multiple patches of hair loss. It’s believed that tinea is responsible for up to 50% of childhood hair loss. An oral medication and medicated shampoo are usually prescribed to treat the infection and help the hair grow back. In most cases, hair will grow back normally once the infection is treated. Unfortunately, these infections can lead to scarring and permanent hair loss in adults and children.