Ringworm of the Scalp – Tinea Capitis
Ringworm of the scalp is often called tinea capitis. Although on first impression it may sound like ringworm of the scalp is actually a worm, it isn’t. It is in fact a fungus infection and its name “ringworm” comes from the circular or ring-like appearance that it has on the scalp in the form of bald patches. The infection targets the scalp and hair shafts. The organisms responsible are known as dermatophytes and they work by superficially targeting tissue around the nails, hair, and skin. The area of infection and the specific type of dermatophytes may have some influence in how the infection is treated.
Symptoms of ringworm of the scalp
Symptoms of ringworm of the scalp include painful/tender areas on the scalp, fragile/brittle hair that can be easily pulled loose, swollen lymph nodes, patches of skin with small black dots—indicating where the hair has broken, areas that are scaly, gray, or red, a low-grade fever, patches which gradually become larger, and one or more round patches of scaly skin where the hair has been broken off.
This condition affects children around the world and it is most common in children ages 4-14. It can, however, affect any individual of any age. It is generally spread by sharing personal items like pillows, combs, or towels. It can also spread through general person-to-person contact, and it tends to be quite contagious. It can even be spread through contact with both house pets and farm animals.
People can be carriers of tinea capitis without showing any symptoms, particularly adults. Poor hygiene and overcrowding make the best conditions for ringworm of the scalp to thrive in. It also loves sweaty skin since the bacteria flourishes in moist warm environments. It is most prevalent in urban areas.
Ringworm of the scalp may look like nothing more harmful than dandruff and does not always make a ring pattern. At its worst people develop kerion from tinea capitis. Kerion are essentially crusty swollen areas which leak puss. In severe cases these kerion could lead to scarring and even permanent bald spots.
There are a few other conditions aside from ringworm of the scalp which may demonstrate some of the same symptoms. At the point where you or your child is experiencing hair loss, scaling/itchiness of the scalp, or any other symptoms around the scalp which seem unusual, visit your doctor. Getting the condition diagnosed so that you can treat it in a timely manner is key. When you go to the doctor they will most likely collect a hair or skin sample to analyze and altogether this process may take weeks to complete. To treat tinea capitis your doctor will likely prescribe anti-fungal medication and/or a medicated shampoo.
Treat ringworm of the scalp
Healing from ringworm of the scalp often takes time and progresses slowly. You will likely have to wait a month after starting treatment before you see any major difference in the condition. It may be prudent to bring in other people and pets in the household to make sure they don’t also have tinea capitis.