Red spots with varying levels of itchiness are a defining symptom of ringworm. They're highly contagious and can spread easily to other people and even your pets. However, ringworm also has unique symptoms depending on where the fungi start growing. Should you experience any of the symptoms below, contact your doctor immediately.
Symptoms for Each Ringworm Type
Tinea capitis (scalp)1 — Dry scaling, which is similar to dandruff but with moth-eaten-like hair loss, is an early indicator of tinea capitis.
Black dots where hair has broken off may appear, and bald spots due to hair loss may also become permanent if left untreated. Kerion, a pus-filled lump several centimeters in diameter,2 may develop.
You may also experience favus (a more severe form of tinea capitis), which is characterized by yellow cup-shaped crusts that resemble a honeycomb, accompanied by hair loss, atrophy and scarring, if left untreated long-term.3
Tinea barbae (facial hair)4,5 — Crusting and swelling may be seen in the facial hair and neck area, and the hairs can be pulled out easily too. The affected area isn't that itchy or painful.
Tinea pedis (foot)6 — Common symptoms include round, dry patches on top of the foot and clusters of blisters on its sides. Moist, peeling irritable skin in between toes also may form.
In more severe cases, the entire sole, heel and sides of the foot may become dry but not inflamed (aka moccasin tinea).
Tinea cruris (groin)7 — Reddish-brown rashes start from the folds of the groin, which can go down to your thighs.8 They may form ring patterns on your buttocks, and can be very itchy.
Tinea cruris generally does not affect the male or female genitals, but it is more common in men,9 which is most probably why it got the nickname "jock itch."
Tinea faciei (face)10 — Rashes can appear anywhere on the face that is not on the facial hair and scalp areas, which are tinea barbae and tinea capitis, respectively.
The rashes may look like pink or red patches ranging in size from 1 to 5 centimeters. The edges of the spots may be raised and can include bumps, blisters or scabs. The symptoms may also worsen after sunlight exposure.11
Tinea manuum (hand)12,13 — Common symptoms include blistering rashes that appear in crops with a sticky fluid on the edges of the fingers or palm. The edges of the spots may also be raised.
Tinea manuum is more itchy compared to other types of ringworm, and skin discoloration may happen if spots appear long-term.
Tinea unguium (toenails or fingernails)14 — Nail ringworm generally affects the big or small toenail, but can be present in other toenails.
White or yellow streaks develop on one side of the affected toenail and the edge lifts up easily. Flaky, white patches may form on top of the nail plate and if left untreated, the nail may be completely destroyed.
Tinea corporis (body)15 — Inflamed, red patches that may be pustular can appear as an acute (rapid) or chronic (slow buildup) condition.
The patches are also more prominent in body folds and, in some cases, they may develop another ring inside. Kerion can develop as well.
Tinea incognito (worsening symptoms due to misdiagnosis)16 — The use of topical steroid creams can prolong the rashes, making them more irritable.
Bruising and broken blood vessels may also form if topical steroid creams are continued to be applied on the rash, despite the temporary relief they provide.
When your ringworm takes on a different appearance, contact your doctor immediately for an alternative treatment.