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Ringworm - What are the symptoms of ringworm?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Ringworm causes a rash or patches of itchy, flaky skin. The rash is often ring-shaped, which is why people call this condition 'ringworm'.

The exact symptoms of ringworm can vary, depending on which part of your body is affected. Ringworm can cause a ring-shaped rash if it affects a smooth area of skin without much hair.[3] If ringworm affects your scalp, it causes patches of hair loss.

Fungal infections on other parts of your body, such as your nails or feet, belong to the same family of conditions as ringworm. But they don't usually cause a ring-shaped rash, and they tend to have a different name. For example, a fungal infection of the feet is usually called athlete's foot. To read more, see What is ringworm?

Symptoms of body ringworm

Ringworm on your body starts as a red, scaly spot.[3] This spreads outwards over time. The centre of the rash may start to clear up, making a ring shape. The rash is often itchy.

You may get one patch of ringworm or several. They sometimes overlap to make a pattern like the petals of a flower.

Symptoms of groin ringworm

Groin ringworm is much more common in men than in women, especially men who play a lot of sport. It causes a rash at the top of your thighs and around the skin creases of your groin.[4] There's usually a very obvious edge to the rash.[3]

In severe cases, groin ringworm can spread further down your thighs or on to your buttocks.[4] It doesn't tend to affect the skin on your penis or scrotum.

Symptoms of scalp ringworm

Ringworm of the scalp usually affects children. It's not always easy for doctors to spot, because it can cause several different types of symptoms. Here are some of the things to look out for.[5]

  • Patches of hair loss. These tend to start small and grow slowly. They can be round or irregular in shape. The skin in these patches may look grey or be covered in black dots. The dots are hairs that have broken off.

  • A flaky or scaly scalp. This may look like bad dandruff. However, hair oils can make flaking skin harder to spot.

  • An itchy scalp.

  • Red, inflamed areas on the scalp.

Severe ringworm of the scalp can turn into a spongy, inflamed area called a kerion. This may feel very tender. It's important to get treatment for a kerion, as there's a chance it could form a scar as it heals.[6] This can leave a permanent bald patch.

Babies and very young children often get a crust of oily, flaky skin on their scalp. This is a type of dermatitis called cradle cap. It's not ringworm, and doesn't usually need any treatment apart from gentle shampooing. To read more, see our information on Dermatitis.

Last Updated: June 21, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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