What You Need to Know About Ringworm on Your Eyelid

This is often confused with other skin conditions affecting the eyelid

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Ringworm refers to a very contagious skin infection that is caused by a fungus. The condition, also called tinea and dermatophytosis, can be transmitted easily from one person to another through skin-to-skin contact or contact with inanimate objects that an infected person has touched. The name “ringworm” comes from the red, itchy, circular rash that it causes.

It can affect various parts of the body, from the feet to the groin to toenails and fingernails. It can also be present on or around the eyelid. However, other conditions can also cause a red, raised rash on the eyelids, including psoriasis and eczema.

Doctor examining patient's eye with flashlight

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Causes

Ringworm is caused by the fungus Tinea. It’s commonly spread through close contact with someone who already has the fungal infection or by sharing towels, clothing, bedding, and combs.

You can also get ringworm from touching an animal that is infected. Pets like cats and dogs commonly have ringworm and can spread it to humans. Common farm animals like cows, pigs, and goats can also carry the fungus.

Ringworm can further be spread environmentally. The fungi can live on surfaces, especially in damp areas like bathrooms and locker rooms. Touching these surfaces and then your eyes can spread the fungus to your eyelid and result in an infection.

Ringworm that affects the face can occur in all ages, but is more common in children, and is found more often in warmer climates.

Ringworm Doctor Discussion Guide

Doctor Discussion Guide Old Man

In children, ringworm can appear pretty much anywhere on the face, marked by its signature red, circular lesions with raised edges. A lesion will be less red as it grows on an area of the face. Women are similar; ringworm can appear pretty much anywhere on the face.

In men and people who can grow facial hair, ringworm on the face can also present itself in their beards and other facial hair. Generally, this occurs in people who came in contact with an animal that carries the fungus.

It can present itself as intense redness and swelling, facial hair loss, raw, open skin, and pus-filled bumps found in skin under and around the beard.

Risk Factors

Some lifestyle habits are risk factors for ringworm, including:

  • Not washing hands regularly, especially when in contact with someone else who might have been exposed to ringworm
  • Not washing hands with soap and water after touching, petting, or playing with a pet that might be infected
  • Having damp skin for extended periods of time, especially after exercise or intense physical activity
  • Sharing towels, clothing, combs, or bedding with someone who is infected with ringworm

Skin Conditions Mistaken for Ringworm

One problem with diagnosing ringworm on the eyelids or face is that there are other skin conditions that can cause similar-looking rashes. These may include:

  • Psoriasis: Psoriasis on or around the eyes is rare, but it can resemble ringworm. It can cause discoloration, redness, and dryness.
  • Granuloma annulare: This can cause flesh-colored or red bumps and rashes on the skin, and can be confused with ringworm due to the fact that the rashes present in a ring-like shape.
  • Nummular eczema: This type of eczema causes ring-shaped patches on your skin.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis: This can cause small, yellow-tinged scaly skin to collect around the eyelids and eyelashes.
  • Lupus: Lupus is a chronic autoimmune condition that can affect the eyes and eyelids. It can result in a well-defined, raised skin lesion.

Comparing the Rash

The distinguishing feature of ringworm is the round, circular shape of the rash it causes. The rash can look red, silverish, or dark depending on your skin tone. It may be scaly, swollen, or dry.

If you are unsure about an unusual rash that has appeared on or around your eyelid or face, consult your medical provider right away to receive an accurate diagnosis.

Recap

Rashes that appear on or around your eyelid are incredibly common. They can be the result of a skin condition, allergic reactions to cosmetics, or an autoimmune disease. Given that the skin on the eyelid is so delicate and sensitive, it is especially vulnerable to rashes and external irritants.

Diagnosis

If you notice any changes to your eyelids, consult your primary care physician. They can diagnose ringworm on your eyelid or face, or they may refer you to a dermatologist for diagnosis and treatment.

Your medical provider or dermatologist may be able to assess whether you have ringworm by looking at the infected area. They will see if other parts of your body are infected, including whether you have athlete’s foot or have ringworm on your hands.

Your doctor may also perform a KOH test, which involves scraping off a sample of the infected skin. These samples will then be examined under a microscope to determine if they contain Tinea.

Treatment

Once you have been diagnosed with ringworm, you will most likely be prescribed topical antifungal medication. You will typically apply it to your eyelid twice a day for two to four weeks. Generally, the ringworm scale will start to clear before the redness and rash disappear.

There are also over-the-counter creams and ointments you can use to treat ringworm, including:

  • Lotrimin, Mycelex (clotrimazole)
  • Lamisil (terbinafine)
  • Xolegel (ketoconazole)

If you have any questions about the best treatment for you, consult your healthcare provider before starting any of these medications.

When to See A Doctor

If your symptoms do not resolve a week or two after you finish your prescription treatment, see your doctor. The same goes for if you notice any abrupt changes in your vision, skin discoloration, or any abrupt changes in your health.

Prevention

You should never share clothing, towels, laundry, utensils, or combs that may be used by someone who has ringworm. Avoid petting or touching animals that might be infected.

Maintaining proper hand hygiene is crucial to preventing ringworm on your eyelids. Always thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water after coming into contact with someone who has ringworm, communal surfaces, or shared towels and clothing.

If you have ringworm on one part of your body, avoid scratching it or touching other parts of your body after touching your eyelids.

Summary

Ringworm causes a red and itchy ring-shaped rash on the skin. It can easily be spread from person to person, by touching infected surfaces or animals, or by sharing towels and clothing with someone who has ringworm. Ringworm can be mistaken for other conditions that can also cause a circular rash, including eczema and psoriasis.

A Word From Verywell

If you have been diagnosed with ringworm, feel you may have it, or know you have been exposed to someone or an animal that has been infected, prevent the spread of this condition. To do this, wash your hands with soap and water, avoid sharing clothes and items between people, and avoid petting animals that might have been infected.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How did I get a rash on my eyelid?

    Ringworm is caused by the fungus Tinea. You can get it through close contact with someone or an animal that has ringworm. The fungus can live on surfaces and fabrics, so you can also get it from touching infected surfaces and towels and clothing used by someone who has ringworm. If you have ringworm on another part of your body like your feet, if you touch it and then touch your eyelid, ringworm can spread to your eyelid.

  • What kind of doctor should I see for a rash on my eyelid?

    You should see your primary care physician or a dermatologist. They can determine whether you have ringworm by looking at your rash. They may also take a sample of your skin and examine it under a microscope to determine if you have ringworm on your eyelid.

  • How do you treat an eyelid rash?

    Your primary care physician or dermatologist will give you antifungal prescription medication or refer you to over-the-counter treatment. Ringworm rashes on or around the eyelid will generally be treated with a topical ointment.

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14 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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