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Ringworm (Fungal Infections)

There are a variety of fungi that can invade the skin surface causing different kinds of skin rashes. Very often these rashes take on an oval ring shape that led to the descriptive term `ringworm' though no worms are involved. Some of these fungal species are transmitted person-to-person, some are transferred from pets or farm animals and some come from soil or vegetation.

Athlete's foot is the most common form of skin fungal infection. This can present as itching, redness and scaling between the toes or as simple dry thick scaly skin on the bottom of the feet. The fungus can also spread from the feet to the hands and nails, causing thick yellow nails. Since antifungal creams cannot penetrate nails, most nail fungal infections have to be treated with pill medications. Most people who suffer from athlete's foot will remain susceptible to the fungus throughout their lifetime and therefore regular use of antifungal creams has to be continued 2 or 3 times weekly indefinitely to minimize the risk of relapse.

Other forms of ringworm occur in the groin and buttocks (`jock itch') and on the scalp, (known as tinea capitis). On the scalp, the fungus will invade hair shafts, causing hair loss and appearance of bald spots. This type of infection is usually only seen in children and requires antifungal pills or liquid to cure. Sharing of combs, brushes, hats and towels must be avoided so that spread of the infection to other children can be prevented.

Most fungal infections can be completely cured with use of antifungal creams applied twice daily for 2-4 weeks. Infections involving the hair, nails or palms and soles may require antifungal pill medications. If the infection keeps recurring, then maintenance use of antifungal creams 2-3 times weekly should help keep the rash in check, but must be continued indefinitely.

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