Ringworm Stages

What You Need to Know and What to Expect

Are you concerned that you or a family member may have contracted ringworm? If you have a round, raised, red area on the surface of your skin, then you know just how uncomfortable this common infection can be.

Not unexpectedly with a frightening name like “ringworm,” there are many misconceptions associated with this common fungal disease.

Contrary to popular belief, ringworm is not a worm living inside your body. In fact, ringworm has nothing to do with worms at all. It is a harmless fungal infection that can infect outer surface of your skin.

There are several ringworm stages and types of ringworm, and recognizing its progression can help you to know what to expect, how to treat it, and most importantly, when and how it will go away.

Types of Ringworm

In the medical world, any type of fungal skin infection will be described as “tinea” something. If you have a fungal infection of the scalp, for example, your doctor will call it “tinea capitis.” Tinea pedis, on the other hand, is a fungal infection of the feet, also commonly called “athlete’s foot.” Jock itch, or tinea cruris, is a fungal infection of the groin. Fungal infections on the rest of the body, including the torso, arms, or legs, is what we usually call “ringworm.” Your doctor will refer to ringworm as “tinea corporis.” You do not have to be an athlete in order to contract athlete’s foot or jock itch.

Ringworm Stages

The first stage of ringworm is exposure. Ringworm is contracted when a person makes skin-to-skin contact with an infected person or animal. If your spouse, child, dog, or cat has ringworm, you can get it by touching the affected area. Additionally, the fungus that causes ringworm likes to live in warm, moist areas, so sharing items that easily become warm and moist encourages the fungus to spread. Athletic gear, towels, and clothing are included in this category, hence the names “athlete’s foot” and “jock itch.”

The second of the ringworm stages is the incubation period. An incubation period is the length of time that it takes from exposure to the infection until the infection becomes active on your own skin. This can run anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, so it is important to realize that you may not be in the clear just because you don’t develop symptoms right away. The incubation period for tinea corporis is generally shorter than the incubation period for tinea capitis.

The next and most uncomfortable stage of ringworm is the active infection. At this point, you are infected and can infect other people. On the body, you may notice raised, round areas of inflammation that are exceedingly itchy.

Athlete’s foot causes scaling, cracking, and itching. A ringworm infection of the scalp includes raised, flaky, itchy areas and possibly patches of hair loss. Jock itch presents with scaling, itching, and oozing areas on the upper inner thighs. The common denominator of the third of the ringworm stages is itching.


If you are suffering from ringworm, the good news is that it can be very easy to treat, especially in areas of the body that are generally well-exposed, such as the arms or legs.

There are several over-the-counter anti-fungal creams on the market which can be purchased at any supermarket or drugstore or you can use a home remedy for ringworm .

For more stubborn cases, see your dermatologist for something a little stronger. Remember, the sooner you start treatment, the sooner the itch goes away.

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Fungal Infection 101 © 2016
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