Where did ringworm originate?

worm image by Ksenija Djurica from Fotolia.com

When ringworm was initially discovered, doctors were under the impression that it was caused by a worm, hence the name. Today we know that in fact ringworm is a fungus infection that often shows itself in the form of a ring on the affected area of the skin. Sometimes the infection shows itself in the form of a rash.

Although ringworm is highly contagious, there are various ways to effectively treat it.


Ringworm can be traced back to the 1800s, when little was known about how to treat the disease or what caused it. The only thing most physicians knew was that it is highly contagious. To stop the disease from spreading, they practised segregation of the infected people. Ringworm was popular amongst poor people, and this was commonly believed to be because of a lack of hygiene and deficiency in diet. Even though in the 1840s the first ringworm species were found, serious studies didn't take place until the 1940s, when the U.S. military started contracting ringworm while stationed in the humid South Pacific during WWII, according to EarthTym.net.


There are several fungi, referred to as dermatophytes, that can cause ringworm. These agents live on keratin, a protein that can be found on the top layer of skin, and in nails and hair. Some ringworm agents live on animals and in soil. Because fungi grow in humid and moist conditions, common locations you will find the infection are in the creases of the skin, such as the groin area or between the toes. Finding the origin of ringworm is often hard to do because the disease can spread from human to human, from animal to human, and from soil to human. By just touching an infected animal you can contract the disease.


Ringworm symptoms can appear in the form of rashes that are itchy, or present as a lighter or darker ring on the skin. You may experience dry, scaly skin or moist skin with open sores. Symptoms often depend on the location of the ringworm on the body. Jock itch at the groin area and athlete's foot are two forms of ringworm. Other places you may experience ringworm include the hands, nails, arms, legs, face, neck and scalp.


Treatment of ringworm can be in the form of a topical anti-fungal cream that's applied to the affected area. Make sure to use the cream as described on the packaging or as prescribed by your doctor. If the cream doesn't work, your doctor will be able to prescribe oral medication to fight and kill the fungus. If you don't treat the fungus, it can blister and become infected, requiring treatment with antibiotics.


Some things you can do to help prevent contracting ringworm include wearing slippers in locker rooms or bathing areas; showering after skin-to-skin contact with another person; avoiding use of other people's combs or hair brushes; frequently changing socks and underwear; drying off well after showering; and having your pet checked for ringworm by a veterinarian, particularly if you find missing patches of fur on your animal.