Ringworm NYC

What does the term "ringworm" mean?


The term "ringworm" or "ringworms" refers to fungal infections that are on the surface of the skin. The early belief was that the infection was due to a worm, which it is not. It is a result of a fungus infection. Nevertheless, the name "ringworm" has stuck. Some of these fungi produce round spots, but many do not. On the other hand, many round spots are not from fungus. A physical examination of the affected skin, evaluation of skin scrapings under the microscope, and culture tests can help doctors make the appropriate distinctions. A proper diagnosis is essential to successful treatment.

The medical term for ringworm is "tinea." (Tinea gets us back to worms. Tinea is the Latin name for a growing worm.) Doctors add another word to indicate where the fungus is located. Tinea capitis, for instance, refers to scalp ringworm, tinea corporis to fungus of the body, tinea pedis to fungus of the feet, and so on.

What causes ringworm?


Although the world is full of yeasts, molds, and fungi, only a few cause skin problems. These agents are called the dermatophytes, which means "skin fungi." Skin fungi can only live on the dead layer of keratin protein on top of the skin. They rarely invade deeper into the body and cannot live on mucous membranes, such as those in the mouth or vagina.

What are the sources of skin fungi?


Some fungi live only on human skin, hair, or nails. Others live on animals and only visit humans sometimes. Still others live in the soil. It is often difficult or impossible to identify the source of a particular person's skin fungus.

Heat and moisture help fungi grow and thrive, which makes them more common in skin folds such as those in the groin or between the toes. This also accounts for their reputation as being caught from showers, locker rooms, and swimming pools. This reputation is exaggerated, though, since many people with "jock itch" or "athlete's foot" are neither jocks nor athletes.