How to Treat Ringworm

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Ringworm is a skin infection caused by a fungus called tinea. It’s common among children, but can affect humans of any age. If treated by a dermatologist, symptoms of ringworm usually resolve within three to four weeks.

The primary symptom of ringworm is a red and itchy rash that often appears on the feet, groin or scalp. The infection isn’t serious, but is highly contagious and spreads through physical contact. Ringworm can also be passed from animals, such as cats or dogs, to humans. Despite the name, ringworm is a fungal infection rather than a parasitic infestation.

Ringworm is often treated using over the counter creams. These are effective at reducing symptoms and preventing the condition from spreading, but can take up to two weeks to make a difference. If ringworm doesn’t improve with anti-fungal cream, a dermatologist may recommend oral medication. It’s important for a patient with ringworm to keep the affected areas of skin dry and clean, while avoiding irritation from tight clothing.

Prescription Treatment for Ringworm

The two most common types of anti-fungal medication for ringworm are allylamines, such as terbinafine, and griseofulvin. A group of drugs known as azoles, such as itraconazole, are also often used.

Terbinafine is probably the most common treatment for ringworm. The tablets need to be taken daily for several weeks but are generally effective at resolving symptoms. Common side effects of terbinafine include nausea, indigestion and diarrhea, although these are often mild and disappear quickly.
Griseofulvin is another type of treatment that’s often used if the patient can’t take terbinafine (some people, such as those with liver conditions, are unsuitable for terbinafine). The tablets need to be taken for longer – sometimes up to eight weeks – and aren’t suitable during pregnancy.
Itraconazole is usually prescribed by a dermatologist in capsule form, and must be taken for anywhere up to 15 days. It’s not usually prescribed for children or elderly people, and can cause side effects such as headaches, nausea and vomiting.

For ringworm of the scalp, a dermatologist will often recommend a combination of anti-fungal tablets and shampoo. The shampoo is a preventative measure, and stops the infection from spreading.

As with any form of medication, it’s important for a patient to complete the full course of oral anti-fungal tablets. Failure to do so can allow the infection to return, even if the symptoms appear to have resolved.

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