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What Is Ringworm?

This is the name given to an inflammatory condition of the skin caused by the growth in the horny part of the epidermis, the hairs or nails, of certain fungi or moulds. These fungi are transmitted either from one human being to another or from certain animals to human beings. Ringworm may attack the scalp, the beard or the skin of the face, neck, trunk, inner aspects of the thighs, the scrotum and the limbs. Ringworm of the scalp is mostly a disease of childhood caused by the microsporon fungus (occasionally it may be due to infection from cat or dog). The disease shows as a small circular scaly patch on the scalp with thinning hair. Several patches develop and the hairs break. The fungus can be detected by microscopic examination. In ringworm of the beard (tinea barbae) similar scaly circular patches arise and, in some cases, irregular bumpy swellings develop with suppuration. In ringworm of the body, circular pale-pink patches covered by scales appear. The eruption is itchy, and this spreading edge may be pustular. Dhobie itch is a variety of ringworm of the body. Ringworm may also affect the skin of the palms of the hands, and the skin between the toes, usually between the little and fourth toe. This is known as athlete's foot. The skin becomes whitish, sodden, and thickened, and fissuring occurs.

Treatment of Ringworm

It is difficult to destroy the fungus in the skin (hair follicles), and so it becomes necessary to remove the hairs to effect a cure. The scalp is shaved and washed daily with soap and water, and a mercurial ointment applied. This causes some degree of inflammation so that the hairs loosen and fall out. This method of cure takes several months, and to-day it is the usual practice to treat the condition by exposures to X-rays which achieve a much more rapid cure. Ringworm of the beard is treated by removing the hairs by forceps and applying an antiseptic ointment. Ringworm of the toes quickly responds to careful washing along with the application of Whitfield's ointment. In the case of children affected with ringworm, care should be taken to prevent spread of the infection. Brushes, combs, towels and caps should be kept separate and disinfected after use.

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