Ringworm, or Tinea, is a contagious fungal skin infection. It gets its name from the ring-like rash it leaves on the skin. A worm doesn’t cause it.
Ringworm is spread by close contact with an infected person, animal, or contaminated objects. It is caused by dermatophytes (a fungi group) infecting keratinized tissue (skin, nails, hair). Eyelid ringworm typically develops when someone rubs their eyes after touching the fungus.
What is Ringworm on the Eyelid?
Eyelid ringworm is a fungal infection of the skin on the eyelid. Ringworm is common worldwide and tends to infect children more than adults.
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Since eyelid ringworm can mimic other eye conditions, it often is misdiagnosed and not treated properly. Other skin conditions that may resemble ringworm include:
- Seborrheic dermatitis
- Granuloma annulare
The most distinctive symptom of eyelid ringworm is a red circular rash, typically accompanied by itchiness, inflammation, swelling, and eyebrow or eyelash hair loss.
How Does Ringworm Appear and Progress?
Ringworm on the skin appears as round, flat, scaly patches with a raised border. They tend to grow slowly and spread to other areas of the skin.
A ringworm infection can cause severe itchiness and swelling, leading to vision disturbances. It can also cause the eyelashes and eyebrow hairs to fall out.
The appearance of ringworm may also look different depending on skin tone. On light skin, the rash looks pink or red; on darker skin, the rash looks brown or gray.
After treatment, the center of the rash typically clears first. Most mild cases of ringworm heal in about 2-4 weeks.
What Causes Ringworm on the Eyelid?
Eyelid ringworm is most commonly caused by the fungi Microsporum, Trichophyton, or Epidermophyton.
There are different names for ringworm, depending on the area of the body that is infected, including:
- Tinea pedis. Foot (athlete’s foot)
- Tinea capitis. Scalp
- Tinea cruris. Groin (jock itch)
- Tinea barbae. Beard or facial hair
- Tinea corporis. Ringworm on the body
- Tinea faciei. Face
Risk factors that increase your chances of getting ringworm include:
- Living in a hot, humid climate
- Excessive sweating
- Play contact sports (wrestling, football)
- Autoimmune diseases, such as diabetes
- Share used clothes, towels, razors
- Live in close contact with others (dorm rooms, military housing)
- Use of public showers or locker rooms
- Weakened immune system
How Contagious is Ringworm?
Ringworm is very contagious. It spreads easily from skin-to-skin contact or touching your face after touching a contaminated object.
You can also get ringworm from touching infected animals, especially dogs and cats.
Ringworm remains contagious until 48 hours after the start of treatment with an antifungal cream or medication.
How is Ringworm on the Eyelid Diagnosed and Treated?
Ringworm is typically diagnosed by identifying the circular shape of the rash. However, ringworm on the eyelid is often misdiagnosed because it is mistaken for another skin condition, such as dermatitis or psoriasis.
Other ways doctors diagnose ringworm include:
- Asking about symptoms
- Look at small skin or nail sample under a microscope
- Test skin sample with a potassium hydroxide preparation
- Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test
What are the Available Treatment Options?
Ringworm is treated with antifungal medication.
Over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal creams and ointments are the best treatment for mild cases of ringworm, while oral antifungal medication may be used for more severe cases.
Common OTC antifungal medications used to treat ringworm include:
- Clotrimazole (Lotrimin, Mycelex)
- Miconazole (Desenex)
- Terbinafine (Lamisil)
- Ketoconazole (Xolegel)
Prescription oral medication may be needed if topical antifungal creams do not work. These are typically taken over one to three months. It is important to take oral medication precisely as prescribed and not to stop treatment beforehand.
Common oral antifungal medications prescribed to treat severe ringworm include:
- Terbinafine (Lamisil)
- Griseofulvin (Griasctin)
- Fluconazole (Diflucan)
- Itraconazole (Sporanox)
Corticosteroid cream should not be used to treat ringworm, as it may worsen the infection.
How Can You Prevent Ringworm on the Eyelid?
Keeping your skin clean and practicing good personal hygiene is the best way to prevent a ringworm infection, especially if you play sports.
Effective ways of preventing ringworm include:
- Change your socks and underwear daily
- Remove damp or wet clothing
- Shower after exercising
- Cover your feet with sandals when showering in public places
- Always dry off completely when exiting the bath or shower
- Don’t share towels, washcloths, or other used personal items
- Washing hands frequently, especially after touching animals
- Disinfect surfaces
- Wash exercise clothing in hot water
- Treat your animals if they are infected with ringworm
Common Questions on Ringworm on Eyelids
What does ringworm look like, especially on the eyelid?
The telling symptom of ringworm on the eyelids is a red circular rash that looks like a ring. It is typically accompanied by itchiness and swelling.
How common is this condition?
In general, ringworm is a common infection that affects people worldwide.
Eyelid ringworm is less common. It is typically acquired by touching an infected person, animal, or a contaminated object and then touching your face and eyes.
Does ringworm resolve on its own?
Ringworm does not typically resolve on its own. The rash is contagious until 48 hours after treatment starts.
What complications can arise if ringworm is left untreated?
If left untreated, ringworm can spread to other parts of your body. Other complications of untreated ringworm include hair loss, scarring, lesions, abscesses, and the spread of infection.
How does ringworm affect pregnancy?
A ringworm infection does not affect the fetus directly.
However, check with your healthcare provider before using any OTC or prescription medication to ensure it is safe while pregnant.
Ringworm is a common fungal infection that can develop anywhere on the skin. Eyelid ringworm usually develops after touching your face after touching contaminated items or infected people or animals. It is essential to seek medical attention immediately to avoid spreading the infection to others.
The most common symptom of eyelid ringworm is a red circular rash followed by itchiness and swelling. Mild cases of ringworm can be treated with over-the-counter antifungal creams or ointments. Severe cases are treated with prescribed oral antifungal medication.
Keeping your skin clean and practicing good personal hygiene is the best way to prevent a ringworm infection, especially after playing contact sports or using public pools and locker rooms.
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