Ringworm is a fungal infection caused by Candida albicans, which is commonly found on human skin. The fungus grows best when there are no or little natural defenses against it. Ringworm usually appears as small white patches on the body surface, especially around the groin area. These white spots may become larger and redder over time. They may appear in clusters or singly and they do not itch like other types of acne lesions (1-4).
The most common symptoms include: itching, burning, swelling, crusting and peeling. Some people experience only one type of symptom while others have several.
Sometimes these symptoms are mild enough that they go unnoticed and sometimes they cause severe discomfort. Other times the affected areas become infected with bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus (STA) causing infections called abscesses (1-5).
There are many different treatments available for ringworm including prescription drugs, home remedies and natural products. There is no cure for this condition but treatment can help reduce the severity of some symptoms.
Treatment options include topical applications of cream, ointment or gel; use of antifungals such as tetracycline, clindamycin or erythromycin; and the use of herbal preparations containing ingredients such as pennyroyal oil (2-3).
Antifungal creams, lotions and shampoos are a common treatment choice. These topical preparations help relieve the burning and itching that often accompany ringworm.
These products may also be useful if the infection is limited to one area and has not spread to other parts of the body (4).
Some over-the-counter products containing the antifungal medicine called clotrimazole are available without a prescription. These include Lotrimin AF, Mycelex and others (4).
Prescription-strength preparations containing clotrimazole may also be used. Other prescription products containing terbinafine, ketoconazole or miconazole may also be effective against ringworm (4).
These topical preparations work by killing C. albicans, which prevents the fungus from spreading and causes the skin lesions to heal.
To be effective, these must be used for at least one month, or even ongoing maintenance therapy (4).
Treating any infected clothing with hot water and bleach may help prevent reinfection. Clothing that cannot be washed in bleach can be treated with anti-fungal powders such as Talclene (2).
Treating the skin with antifungal agents will not cure this condition. However, it may help relieve some of the symptoms and speed up the healing process (4).
And even though ringworm is not an infection that can be treated with antibiotics, many of these topical preparations are available in combination with antibiotics to treat similar types of infections. When selecting a product, it is a good idea to speak with a medical professional about choosing the treatment that best suits your needs.
Natural Remedies for Treating Ringworm
Oral Natural Herbal Treatment with Pau d’Arco or Boron
When an infection begins to spread, topical antifungals may no longer be enough. At this point, you may choose to take the natural approach by undergoing a short herbal treatment with the herb pau d’arco or boron.
These medicines can be taken in combination with other supplements or may be taken alone. Speak with your doctor before undergoing any herbal treatment.
Healing and Prevention after Treatment
Once you have completed the recommended treatment, there are a few steps you can take to help speed up the healing process and prevent another occurrence of ringworm. It is extremely important to keep the skin as dry as possible.
This will help prevent the spread of the fungus that causes this infection. It may help to use a drying lotion or an aerosol spray. After drying the skin, it is a good idea to apply an antifungal skin cream or ointment. This will help prevent reinfection (3).
If you have ringworm of the groin region, it is important to keep the genital area clean and dry as well.
- Oral treatment of ringworm with griseofulvin. (DI Williams, RH Marten, I Sarkany – Lancet, 1958 – cabdirect.org)
- Experimental ringworm in guinea pigs: oral treatment with griseofulvin (JC Gentles – Nature, 1958 – nature.com)
- Tumors and other diseases following childhood x-ray treatment for ringworm of the scalp (Tinea capitis) (RE Shore, M Moseson, N Harley, BS Pasternack – Health physics, 2003 – journals.lww.com)
- Comparison of clotrimazole cream, Whitfield’s ointment and Nystatin ointment for the topical treatment of ringworm infections, pityriasis versicolor, erythrasma and … (YM Clayton, BL Connor – British Journal of Dermatology, 1973 – Wiley Online Library)
- Broad spectrum antimycotic drug for the treatment of ringworm infection in human beings (N Jain, M Sharma – Current science, 2003 – JSTOR)
- Treatment of Ringworm of the Scalp (RT Brain, K Crow, H Haber, C McKenny… – British medical …, 1948 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)