Tinea Capitis is a fungal infection that affects the scalp and hair. It is sometimes referred to as a ringworm of the scalp.
The signs and symptoms are variable, but most commonly include itchy, dry/flaky, bald patches on the scalp.
Also in some cases, ringworm can result in severe inflammation and lead to permanent hair loss.
Ringworm is contagious and frequently transmitted between young children and adults.
What is the cause of Tinea Capitis?
- In India, tinea capitis is most often caused by a fungus (not a worm) called Trichophyton tonsurans.
- Depending on the causative fungus, tinea can be acquired from other humans, plants or animals, though it is typically spread from human to human.
- An adult can acquire ringworm by touching animals with asymptomatic infection, especially cats and dogs.
- The disease can also be spread through contact with objects such as combs/brushes, clothing, linens and towels.
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How do I know if I have Tinea Capitis?
- Some signs of tinea include hair loss (i.e., bald spots), dryness, flakiness, redness, pus,
broken hairs (resembles black dots), fragile hair that is easily pulled out, open sores, and tenderness.
You may also have a swollen scalp and neck lymph nodes.
- As significant dandruff is uncommon, any flakiness of the scalp should be examined to rule out tinea.
- Your physician can take a sample of scalp hair from your head and send it to be examined in the laboratory.
- Be aware that your sample may take several weeks to show signs of fungal growth.
What treatments are available?
- Unlike ringworm of the body, ringworm of the scalp must be treated with medications taken by mouth which may be prescribed for up to 8 weeks.
- Unfortunately, antifungal creams do not penetrate deep enough to adequately treat tinea.
The medication commonly prescribed is better absorbed with fatty food (a spoonful of ice cream).
Your doctor may check blood work before starting you on an antifungal oral medication to ensure that your liver is functioning appropriately.
- Although the most important treatment for tinea capitis is oral antifungal medications, antifungal shampoo is typically prescribed (for the patient and their family members)
to decrease the spread of the fungus.
What actions should I take if I or any member of my family have been diagnosed with tinea capitis?
- Do not share hair brushes/combs, hats, caps or hooded clothing when the infection is active
- Any hair accessories, combs and brushes should be disinfected or thrown away to prevent reinfection or spread of disease.
- Check all pets for patches of hair loss or dry skin. If noted to have any of these have them checked by a vet.