Despite its name, ringworm is not caused by worms. Rather, the infection is caused by a fungus that can affect the scalp and body. It’s called ringworm because of the characteristic round and oval spots, which are smooth in the center and have a scaly red border. When ringworm affects the nails, it produces nails that are discolored, thick, and crumble easily.
Ringworm is especially common in children. It is highly contagious and can affect the skin on the scalp, feet, hands, and nails. Cats are commonly infected with the fungus that causes ringworm, and you can also catch the infection by touching a person who has ringworm or by coming into contact with an infected hat, brush, comb, pool surface, shower, or unwashed clothing.
When ringworm affects the scalp, it is possible to lose hair in the affected area. Ringworm on the body can appear as one isolated patch or several lesions. These patches may itch and be mildly uncomfortable.
Ringworm that occurs on the body is typically treated with a cream that is available over-the-counter or by prescription. These creams include:
- Clotrimazole—available at your local drugstore without a prescription
- Miconazole—available at your local drugstore without a prescription
- Tolnaftate—available at your local drugstore without a prescription