Ringworm infestation is quite common in cats, dogs and cattle animals but it is not entirely unheard of in humans as well. The problem with ringworm in humans is that it is often difficult to determine the source of infection owing to the wide range of causative organisms. Let us study the details of ringworm in humans.
Causes of Ringworm in humans
Ringworm infections are termed as dermatomycosis or dermatophytosis. They occur in the form of circular lesions in the skin. In the past, these lesions were believed to have been caused by ‘worms’ (hence the name ‘ringworm’).
Four common ringworm/fungi are typically known to cause dermtomycosis in humans. The most common among these four is the Microsporum Canis (M.Canis). It is typically carried by dogs, cats and other household pets. In a few cases, the house pets can get infected from their owners suffering from ringworm in humans.
Further complications arising in ringworm in humans is on account of the spectrum of organisms belonging to the Tinea genus. The fungal spores of this genome are shed by household or wild animals from which humans (who are in close contact with the animal) can get infected. The incubation period of the Tinea fungus is 10-12 days during which time the lesions start to appear on the skin. The infection appears in the form of a circle. This is because; it starts to get cured in the centre while the causative organism proliferates to the outward region of the circle. In some cases, the ringworm can affect the hair shaft and follicles leading to hair loss which may be permanent in severe cases.
Symptoms of Ringworm in humans
Skin: On the skin, the lesions are circular and may appear red, blistered, scaly, oozing, inflamed, or crusted. In the secondary phase of the infection, the skin may itch severely. The fungal spores can also get trapped in the nails and worsen the condition. This can be a contagious infection that is spread by sharing of towels, combs, and other personal items handled by the infected person.
Hair or ringworm of the scalp: This ringworm in humans mainly affects kids and the symptoms vary based on the fungal spores involved. There is considerable shedding of hair and the site may appear scaly, gray and semi-bald. The hair in the region is broken and lusterless.
Ringworm in nails: The affected nails thicken and appear lusterless. In some cases, the nail plate may get disjointed or destroyed.
Ringworm of genital area: This is termed as ‘jock itch’ and is known to mainly affect athletes. This type of ringworm in humans does not affect the penis and scrotum but can cause itching in the crotch region. The pubic region and upper thighs on either side may be affected.
Treatment and prevention
Ringworm in humans typically affects kids, elderly or the immune-compromised. Early medical intervention in the form of anti fungal drugs is necessary to prevent permanent damage (mainly hair loss). Individuals already suffering from a spectrum of infections and afflictions can also suffer from host of other complications on account of the M.Canis fungus.
Diagnosis of ringworm in humans is done with the help of UV light as this makes the legions appear fluorescent. A culture of the patch may also be taken though usually it is not required.
Topical and systemic antifungals may be prescribed. 1 in 10000 Potassium permanganate solution is used but it can cause temporary skin discoloration. Antifungal drugs like Imidazole, Miconazole and Clotrimazole are available in the form of creams and must be applied as prescribed to limit complications from ringworm in humans. Oral medicines consist mainly of triazole or fluconazole (50mg per day for 2-4 weeks or as prescribed by the doctor). It is best to follow the experts’ advice and monitoring in order to make dose adjustments when needed. Individuals that are at risk to ringworm in humans must stay as far away from infected animals as possible.