What are Ringworm Symptoms and Signs?

Ringworm SymptomAt one point, people believed ringworm (tinea corporis or capitis) was caused by a worm, hence the name. In actuality, ringworm is a skin infection caused by different types of fungi. Even though you can’t see them, the body is host to hundreds of microorganisms. They are generally not harmful, and some even help the body function properly. If the right conditions present themselves, however, bad bacterium or fungi can grow out of control and cause an infection.

Tinea is highly contagious, and you can contract the infection through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person or by handling objects he or she has used with like combs or towels. Ringworm likes to grow in warm damp places, so you can also become infected via contact with surfaces where it commonly grows like shower floors.

Symptoms of Ringworm: What it Looks Like?

Ringworm can occur on any part of the body, and the symptoms will vary depending on where the infection develops. Trademark symptoms usually appear between 4 and 14 days after the skin comes in contact with the fungal spores that cause ringworm.

The definitive sign of ringworm is a skin rash that is red or silvery (gray) and inflamed. A lot of times this rash will be in the shape of a circle or ring-like, but not always. In rare cases, it may be completely absent. The rash may be slightly raised and scaly around the edges or it may be flat. Typically, the rash will itch and can develop in multiple places at the same time. Ringworm Symptoms in Women Ringworm Symptom

Face: Ringworm infestation on the face outside of the area where bread grows is called tinea faciei. Ringworm is rarely ring-shaped on the face, it causes red, scaly patches with indistinct edges. It might not be clear at the center.

Feet: Tinea that occurs on the feet is called athlete’s foot. This type of ringworm sometimes infect the hands, palms, and fingers and cause similar symptoms. The primary symptom of this type of ringworm infection is scaling, flaking, cracking, itching, burning, redness or peeling skin between the toes or fingers and stinging on the soles of the feet.

The skin may be red and itchy, and blisters may develop that ooze or crust. The sole and heel may also be affected. If the infection spreads to the fingernails or toenails, they may thicken, discolor, or crumble, often between the little toe and the one next to it.

Symptoms of ringworm on feet Genital and Groin Area: Another place where people get ringworm is the genital and groin area, which is commonly known as jock itch. Although it mostly affects adolescent boys and men, women can get this form of ringworm too.

Symptoms include severe itching, red scaly patches that may blister and ooze, and abnormally light or dark skin. The rash can spread outward to the inner thighs, buttocks, and anus. Exercising and wearing tight fitting clothes can cause ringworm to worsen.

Ringworm Symptoms on Genitals and Groin Scalp & Beard: Ringworm can infect the scalp and beard. If it occurs in the scalp, dry brittle hair or bald spots may appear that are often filled with small black dots where hair used to be. If the infection spreads the crusted over bald spots can grow in size and more than one such spots might develop.

As the fungi borrows into the hair shaft and colonizes the hair follicle, it eats through the hair, which leads to hair breaking off. Red or swollen scaly skin that itches may appear as well as kerions (pus-filled sores). Low-grade fever may accompany the infection in the scalp. Infections in the beard may produce pimples or pustules which may crust over.

Ringworm is more common in children in late childhood or adolescence. Usually the condition is thought to spread in schools.

Unlike other conditions affecting scalp area, such as seborrhea or dandruff, hair loss is not observed in this condition.

Ringworm symptoms on scalp Nails: Nail discoloration is common. Usually appearance of tiny spots that may be white, black, yellow or green is accompanied with thickening of the nail. The skin and tissues surrounding the nail might become swollen and irritated. Long term infection can cause the nail to get distorted, crumbly and start to fall off.

Disease that Look Similar to Ringworm or have similar Symptoms but are not:


To an untrained eye, psoriasis, or at-least the early stages of it may easily be mistaken for ringworm. However the two cannot be more unlike each other. As discussed earlier, ringworm is essentially a fungal infection. Psoriasis on the other hand is an auto-immune disorder. Usually our skill cells mature, die and then slowly flake off in a process that approximately takes 4 weeks. For a person suffering from psoriasis, this rate is highly accelerated, causing them to shed their skin cells in a matter of days. This is because the sufferer’s immune system mistakenly identifies certain skin cells as foreign objects, thus attacking it.


Eczema has some superficial similarities with both ringworm and psoriasis. Like psoriasis, eczema is an immunological disorder. However, unlike psoriasis, eczema is usually triggered by environmental allergens. During the early stages though, the affected area does look reddish, so it can easily be confused with ringworm.

We hope the following table can prove to be helpful to understand the differences between ringworm, psoriasis and eczema

CauseFungal infection.Auto-immune disorder. Usually inherited from one’s parents.Immunological disorder triggered by environmental allergens. Pollen, dust mites, dandelion or even dandruff can trigger eczema.
Appearance• Dry red circular ring, usually less than 2 cm in diameter. Grows bigger if left untreated.

• Outer ring is usually redder than the skin inside the ring.

• Can be solitary, or can appear in a bunch.
• Severely dry skin with a white or silvery layer on top.

• Usually occurs all over the body. With time the patches may join each other.
• Usually red in the early stages.

• Becomes brownish with time.

• The affected area can become thick or scaly if it is left untreated.
Body parts affectedWarm, moist parts of the body, such as armpits, groin and feet. Can also appear between the fingers, especially among those who wear rings.Can appear anywhere. Most common areas are the scalp, knees, feet, elbows, lower back and even on the hands.Can appear anywhere in the body. Even around the eye.
Time taken to manifest symptomsRoughly 2 weeks from the time the affected person came in contact with the fungi.As it is hereditary, the symptoms can appear at any time. Usually starts appearing from childhood.It is an allergic reaction, so it can be a matter of minutes or seconds from exposure, depending upon the quantity of the offending allergen.
Is it contagious?Yes.Not at all.Eczema by itself is not contagious. But if it is infected with a secondary infection, that may be contagious.
Is it painful?It is simply itchy at the beginning. Then the area becomes sore. If left untreated, it can lead to a burning sensation upon touch as well.• Not usually. However, the white patches can become tender with age.

• May cause a unique form of arthritis known as psoriatic arthritis. This causes pain typically associated with arthritis.

• If it occurs under the nail, then it may cause the nail to slowly separate from the nail bed. This will be painful as well.
• It is more itchy than painful. However, continuous itching can make the affected area sore, which can lead to secondary infections, which can be painful.

• Can cause permanent vision impairment, if it manifests around the eye.

Other rashes that can look like ringworm include spider bites, and Lyme disease. Lyme disease is a much more serious infection that creates rashes which resemble the shape of a bull’s-eye. These disease require totally different set of treatments, therefore its good to consult a qualified medical professional.

Treating Ringworm Symptoms

This is a common infection that affects about 20% of the population and is easy to diagnose. Although it is very contagious, it is also easily treatable at home using over-the-counter medications that don’t require prescription. Read our reviews of natural ringworm treatments for effective remedies that clear the infection with little to no side effects on the homepage.

Don’t scratch the affected skin as you can spread the infection to other healthy body areas. Your rash may clear up soon after you start treatment but it can take up to four weeks for the infection to completely go away. So it is important to use the medication for as long as your doctor or the manufacturer says to use it, even if the symptoms like hair loss or scaly rashes dissipate. This will help keep the infection from coming back.

Re-infection is often caused by incomplete treatment. Although uncommon but if the infection keeps coming back your doctor may prescribe strong anti fungal pills that will kill the fungus. Left untreated skin could blister, and the resulting cracks could become infected with bacteria. Antibiotics would be needed if this happens.

Children undergoing treatment for ringworm don’t need to skip school or day care.