Ringworm is a type of red or discolored, itchy skin rash caused by a contagious fungal infection called tinea (tinea capitis when it affects your scalp and tinea corporis when it affects your body).
Tinea is transmitted by pets and people, and it’s the same type of fungus that causes jock itch and athlete’s foot. The ringworm rash gets its name from the ring-like shape in which it appears, usually surrounding a circle of clearer skin.
Despite its name, there’s no worm involved. It can look a lot like another skin condition causing a red or discolored rash called psoriasis.
Ringworm can affect almost any part of your body, including your scalp and hands. Most cases of ringworm are mild and fairly easy to treat at home and with medication. Usually ringworm clears up in 2 to 4 weeks.
More serious cases may require up to 3 months of treatment. Some cases of ringworm, including ringworm on your scalp, may cause hair loss. In rare cases, a person may experience scarring following a case of ringworm.
Antifungal medication is a widely used treatment for ringworm. Most cases of ringworm respond well to these medications and rashes disappear. In rare cases, healed ringworm rashes leave permanent scarring on your skin.
Ringworm scars are more likely to affect people living with:
- autoimmune diseases
- sensitive skin
- pigmented skin
- wound-healing conditions
Most people do not experience scarring from ringworm.
In rare cases of ringworm, a person may develop permanent round brown or discolored scars on their skin following a case.
These scars have the same pattern as the ringworm rash. They are round and usually surround a round patch of clearer skin.
Ringworm scars are usually brown or discolored and flat. They may cover large or small patches of skin. Some scarring caused by ringworm can be permanent.
Scarring isn’t necessarily harmful, and scars usually fade over time. But some people may want to reduce the appearance of their scars.
Some common treatments for minimizing the appearance of scars include:
Dermabrasion is a cosmetic procedure performed by a licensed medical professional that smooths out scarred, discolored skin using a rapidly rotating device. The device buffs your skin to remove the outer layer of the scarred area.
Your skin that grows back in its place is usually smoother and more evenly toned. This procedure involves local anesthesia and can make your skin sensitive for a period of time. It usually takes 3 months to see results.
Laser therapy involves exposing scarred skin to intense light beams. The light removes your outer layer of skin or sparks new skin growth in the places it has been damaged.
When performed by licensed medical professionals, laser therapy is usually safe and effective at reducing the appearance of ringworm scars.
Prevent further skin damage
Preventing further skin damage can help improve the chances that the appearance of your scar will diminish over time.
And if you currently have ringworm, taking good care of your skin may minimize your risks of scarring as you heal.
Be mindful of the effects of sun damage, smoking, and any medications you take that might worsen scarring. Antifungal medications, for example, can make your skin more vulnerable to the effects of sun damage.
Some easy tips to keep your skin healthy and protected include:
- Quit or reduce smoking. This may be difficult, but a doctor can create a plan that works for you.
- Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day.
- Apply moisturizer to dry skin.
- Protect your skin from the wind with clothing.
- Cover exposed skin when outside.
- Avoid going outside during the sun’s peak hours.
- Try to eat a balanced diet.
- Try to get enough sleep.
- Avoid drinking alcohol.
Vitamin E oil and cream have long been touted as scar treatments. However, there is limited clinical evidence that vitamin E is effective at reducing the appearance of scars.
If you choose to use vitamin E or any other treatment for your scars, always talk with a doctor first. Some treatments may interact with medications or existing medical conditions.
Some people may rarely be more prone to a serious infection that reaches below your skin. This kind of infection can cause serious illness.
Such a reaction to ringworm is most likely to affect someone living with a weakened immune system, including those living with HIV/AIDS.
Ringworm is a round red or discolored rash caused by a common fungal infection. While most people heal from ringworm without any lasting effects, a few people may experience permanent scarring.
While these scars usually fade over time, there are several things you can do to prevent or minimize their appearance.