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Tinea capitis

Definition

Tinea capitis is a fungal infection of the scalp. It is also called ringworm of the scalp.

Related skin infections may be found:

Alternative Names

Fungal infection - scalp; Infection - fungal - scalp; Tinea of the scalp; Ringworm - scalp

Causes

Fungi are germs that can live on the dead tissue of the hair, nails, and outer skin layers. Tinea capitis is caused by mold-like fungi called dermatophytes.

The fungi grow well in warm, moist areas. A tinea infection is more likely if you:

Tinea capitis, or ringworm, can spread easily. It most often affects children and goes away at puberty. However, it can occur at any age.

You can catch tinea capitis if you come into direct contact with an area of ringworm on someone else's body. You can also get it if you touch items such as combs, hats, or clothing that have been used by someone with ringworm. The infection can also be spread by pets, particularly cats.

Symptoms

Tinea capitis may involve part or all of the scalp. The affected areas:

You may have a low-grade fever of around 100 to 101°F (37.8 to 38.3°C) or swollen lymph nodes in the neck.

Tinea capitis may cause hair loss and lasting scars.

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider will look at your scalp for signs of tinea capitis. A special test that uses a lamp called a Wood's lamp can help diagnose a fungal scalp infection.

Your health care provider may swab the area and send it for a culture. It may take up to 3 weeks to get these results.

Rarely, a skin biopsy of the scalp will be done.

Treatment

Your health care provider will prescribe medicine you take by mouth to treat ringworm on the scalp. You will need to take the medicine for 4 to 8 weeks.

Steps you can do at home include:

Other family members and pets should be examined and treated, if necessary.

Once the shampoo has been started:

No one in the home should share combs, hairbrushes, hats, towels, pillowcases, or helmets with other people.

Outlook (Prognosis)

It may be hard to get rid of tinea capitis. Also, the problem may come back after it is treated. In many cases it gets better on its own after puberty.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of tinea capitis. Home care is not enough to get rid of tinea capitis.

References

Elewski BE, Hughey LC, Sobera JO, et al. Fungal diseases. In: Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Schaffer JV, et al, eds. Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2012:chap 77.

Hay RJ. Dermatophytosis and other superficial mycoses. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 267.


Review Date: 11/12/2014
Reviewed By: Richard J. Moskowitz, MD, dermatologist in private practice, Mineola, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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