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Tinea capitis

Contents of this page:


Ringworm of the scalp
Ringworm of the scalp
Wood's lamp test - of the scalp
Wood's lamp test - of the scalp
Ringworm, tinea capitis - close-up
Ringworm, tinea capitis - close-up

Alternative Names    Return to top

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

Definition    Return to top

Tinea capitis is a fungal infection of the scalp.

Causes    Return to top

Tinea capitis (also called ringworm of the scalp) is caused by by mold-like fungi called dermatophytes. It usually affects children and disappears at puberty. However, it can occur at any age.

The fungi that cause tinea infections thrive in warm, moist areas. You have an increased risk for tinea infection if you have:

Tinea infections are contagious. You can catch tinea capitis if you come into direct contact with someone who has the condition, or if you touch contaminated items such as combs, hats, or clothing. The infection can also be spread by pets, particularly cats.

Symptoms    Return to top

Symptoms include:

Exams and Tests    Return to top

The appearance of the scalp will make the health care provider suspect tinea capitis.

Tests may include:

Treatment    Return to top

Anti-fungal medications, taken by mouth, are used to treat the infection. Griseofulvin, terbinafine, and itraconazole are often used to treat this condition.

Keep the area clean. A medicated shampoo, such as one containing ketoconazole or selenium sulfide, may reduce the spread of infection. Other family members and pets should be examined and treated, if necessary.

Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

Tinea capitis may be extremely persistent, and it may return after treatment. In many cases it gets better on its own when the person reaches puberty.

Possible Complications    Return to top

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have symptoms of tinea capitis. Home care remedies do not effectively treat tinea capitis.

Prevention    Return to top

Good general hygiene is important to prevent and treat tinea infections. Shampoo the scalp regularly, especially after haircuts.

Avoid contact with infected pets or people. Do not exchange headgear, combs, and similar items unless they are first thoroughly cleaned and dried.

References    Return to top

Andrews MD, Burns M. Common tinea infections in children. Am Fam Physician. 2008;77:1415-1420.

Update Date: 10/3/2008

Updated by: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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