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Ringworm : Definition, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Tuesday, August 21st 2012. | Bacteria, Disease, Skin, Hair and Nails

Ringworm Definition

Ringworm is an infection of the hair. It is caused by various types of fungi.

Ringworm is part of a group of diseases of the skin and its appendages (hair, hair, nails) caused by fungi called dermatophytes. It also refers to as ringworm dermatophytosis. This is not a serious disease, but it is highly contagious.

Ringworm of the scalp are benign, highly contagious, affecting mainly children. Depending on the type of fungus involved, there are two types of ringworm:

  • Anthropophilic ringworm which, as their name suggests, are caused by fungi strictly human origin (soudanense Trichophyton, Trichophyton tonsurans, Microsporum langeronii …)
  • Moths zoophiles are caused by dermatophytes transmitted by animals, especially cats and dogs (Microsporum canis, Trichophyton mentagrophytes …).

In France, anthropophilic tinea predominate in urban areas and most often affect persons from sub-Sahelian Africa.Outbreaks of ringworm of the scalp occasionally occur in communities, especially children as drop-in centers and schools.


Ringworm on the skin *img thanks to naturasil.com)

Ringworm Type of Contamination

Contamination occurs so either directly in contact with a human or an infected animal or indirectly through contaminated objects (combs, hats, towels …).

These are fungal spores that are responsible.

Very resistant, they can survive very long outside environment. Spores penetrate the hair and brittle, causing them to fall.

Due to the highly contagious ringworm, screening should be performed in all family members of affected children.

Ringworm Symptoms

Clinical manifestations vary with the type ringworm dermatophytes.

It is possible to distinguish between:

  • The tinea tonsurans are by far the most frequent (80%). They affect the choice with school-age children. The main fungus belongs to the genus Microsporum and can be transmitted by humans, cats or dogs. The lesions begin as small red spots on the scalp followed by the formation of some plates whitish or greyish rounded, rather large (4-6 cm) and covered with scales, with broken hair very short (3-5 mm). These plates are also the seat of itching (pruritus), sometimes intense. Hair outside plates are normal. In tinea tonsurans due to Trichophyton, the plates are small (1-2 cm), many with broken hair short.
  • The kerion is a form of ringworm very suppurative inflammation, often caused by zoophilic dermatophytes (horse, rabbit, goat, guinea pig …). Fungi destroy the hair follicles and cause large lesions resembling macaroons on which form pustules. Localized to the scalp or beard, these lesions are painful and sometimes associated with lymph (lymphadenopathy) in the same region and fever. In case of complications, hair loss (alopecia) can be definitive.
  • Ringworm and favus favique is the most aggressive form of ringworm because it causes permanent alopecia and leaves scars, even when the treatment was well led. This is a very rare infection, due to anthropophilic dermatophytes (Trichophyton schonleinii) proliferates in the hairline and gives lesions shaped “cup”, very characteristic of the disease.

Ringworm Diagnosis

The diagnosis can be guided by an examination of the lesions with a special light called a Wood’s light, which in some types of ringworm, gives a green fluorescent bright blue haired contaminated.

However, even if the patient shows signs highly suggestive of ringworm, the diagnosis must be confirmed by the detection of the fungus in the hair.

Only this mycological examination can accurately identify the source of dermatophyte infection.


Tinea Corporis (img thanks to uiowa.edu)

Ringworm Treatment

Treatment with antimycotics.

The treatment of ringworm based on oral antifungals or antifungal for several weeks because the fungi are very resistant.

Some forms are more difficult to treat as Trichophyton tonsurans due to that. Local treatment with specific shampoos will not cure the infection but can reduce the spread of spores and therefore infectiousness. Shaving the hair has the same effect, but mowing is not always complete required.

It is also unnecessary to wear a cap to try to limit the contamination of the environment. However, it is essential to separate the personal effects and other accessories (comb, brush, towel, glove …) of the patient. 

If ringworm is caused by a fungus zoophile, animal suspected of being the source of the contamination must be seen by a veterinarian.

Can my child go to school?

Regulations concerning the eviction school has evolved. It is no longer necessary to provide evidence of the disappearance of the pathogen (negative mycological examination) to allow the child to return to school.

Since 2003, simply submit a medical certificate “attesting to consultation and prescribing appropriate treatment.”

Health officials also recommend “a systematic review of scalp for children in the class and personal contact.”

Ringworm Ask and Question

Is it serious?

Yes in the case of ringworm favique because hair will not grow back. This is very unfortunate for the future well-being of the child.

Ringworm is it transmitted by animals?

Yes, cats and dogs (and some farm animals, as young animals) can transmit a fungus (Microsporum canis) and cause ringworm. But this moth is not transmitted from person to person and then another. But there are several other fungi that are transmitted by humans.

How do you get?

The moths are transmitted from person to person or from animal to person, or by skin contact or by fingers contaminated by the fungus. They can cause small outbreaks in a school, but it shows less in France, if at all.

What tests do?

Direct examination under the microscope, to just watch if it is indeed a fungus. It simply confirms parasitism. The result is known in a few days (one week).

Culture, which allows the fungus to grow and learn more about its exact nature (eg whether it comes from an animal). The result is given after 3 to 4 weeks, it is final.

Why take such a treatment by the mouth?

The fungus attacks the hair therefore, weakens the case, and progressing towards the root with which it will sink into the skin to shelter outpatient treatment (which makes the surface of the skin). It is for this reason that a treatment called “systemically”, that is to say, by mouth, is sometimes necessary.

Ringworm Specialty Concern

Infectious and Tropical Diseases

Exercised most often in the hospital this specialty studies and supports diseases caused by microbes : bacteria (tuberculosis, skin infections), viruses (AIDS, hepatitis), mushrooms (fungi), parasites (malaria)Most of these diseases exist in France, but they are still present in the tropics.

Today, with increased travel and because of climate change, tropical diseases are more frequent in hospitals.


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