Tinea Capitis

Causes Symptoms and Treatment

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What is Tinea Capitis?

Tinea capitis, or what is commonly known as scalp ringworm, is a fungal infection of the scalp that primarily affects children but can also occur in adults. 


Although a common skin condition, tinea capitis can lead to discomfort, itching, and hair loss if left untreated. 


Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for tinea capitis is essential for effective management and prevention of complications.  

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Causes of Tinea Capitis

Tinea capitis is caused by dermatophyte fungi, including species such as Trichophyton and Microsporum, which thrive in warm, humid environments. 


These fungi can be transmitted through direct contact with infected individuals, contaminated objects such as combs or hats, or from animals such as cats or dogs. 


Factors that may increase the risk of tinea capitis include poor hygiene, crowded living conditions, and compromised immune function.

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Symptoms and Signs

The symptoms of tinea capitis can vary depending on the specific type of fungus involved and the individual's immune response. 


Common signs may include:


  • Itching or irritation of the scalp.
  • Red, scaly, or inflamed patches on the scalp.
  • Hair loss or thinning in affected areas.
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck (in severe cases).
  • Occasionally, the presence of black dots (broken hairs) or a "black dot" pattern of hair loss may be observed.

Diagnosis and Evaluation

Diagnosing tinea capitis typically involves a physical examination and evaluation of symptoms by a healthcare provider. 


In some cases, additional tests such as a fungal culture, microscopic examination of skin scrapings, or a Wood's lamp examination may be performed to confirm the diagnosis and identify the specific type of fungus causing the infection.

Treatment Options for Tinea Capitis

Treatment for tinea capitis typically involves antifungal medications to eradicate the fungus and alleviate symptoms. 


Consulting with a medical professional can help an individual determine which treatment methods are right for them. 


Depending on the severity and type of infection, treatment options may include:


  • Oral Antifungal Medications: Oral antifungal medications such as griseofulvin, terbinafine, or fluconazole are commonly prescribed to treat tinea capitis. This is especially true in cases caused by Trichophyton species.
  • Topical Antifungal Creams: In addition to oral medications, topical antifungal creams or shampoos containing ingredients such as ketoconazole or selenium sulfide may be used to reduce fungal growth and alleviate symptoms.
  • Antifungal Shampoos: Medicated shampoos containing antifungal agents may be recommended for regular use to prevent recurrence of tinea capitis and maintain scalp hygiene.

Tinea Capitis FAQs

Tinea Capitis is a contagious fungal infection of the scalp, eyebrows, and eyelashes, with a propensity for attacking hair shafts and follicles. 


The condition is characterized by round patches of hair loss that may be accompanied by scaling, redness, and itching. 


It's caused by dermatophytes, a type of fungus that can invade and live on the keratin found in hair, skin, and nails.

Tinea Capitis is highly contagious and can be transmitted through direct contact with infected individuals or animals. 


It can also spread by sharing personal items like combs, hats, pillows, and towels that have been used by an infected person. 


The spores from the fungus can survive for long periods on objects, making it easy to transmit in household settings and among children in schools and daycare centers.

Symptoms of Tinea Capitis include:


  • Round patches of hair loss that gradually expand in size.
  • Scaling and redness on the scalp.
  • Itching, which may be severe.
  • Black dots on the scalp where hair has broken off at the root.
  • Tender or swollen lymph nodes in severe cases.
  • In some cases, a kerion (a severe, painful inflammation) may develop, which can lead to scarring and permanent hair loss if not treated promptly.

Diagnosis of Tinea Capitis typically involves a physical examination of the scalp. 


A healthcare provider may also use a Wood's lamp (ultraviolet light) to examine the scalp, as certain types of fungi will fluoresce under the light. 


The definitive diagnosis is made through a fungal culture or microscopic examination of a hair sample or scraping from the scalp, which can identify the specific type of fungus responsible for the infection.

Treatment for Tinea Capitis usually involves oral antifungal medications, as topical treatments alone are not effective against the fungus deep in the hair follicle. 


Commonly prescribed antifungals include griseofulvin, terbinafine, itraconazole, and fluconazole. Treatment typically lasts for 6 to 8 weeks, and it's important to complete the full course to prevent recurrence. 


Additionally, infected individuals should avoid sharing personal items, and bedding and clothing should be washed regularly to prevent spreading the fungus.

Prevention Strategies for Tinea Capitis

Preventing tinea capitis involves practicing good hygiene and taking precautions to minimize the risk of fungal infections. 


Some preventive measures include:

  1. Teaching children proper handwashing techniques and encouraging regular shampooing and scalp hygiene.
  2. Avoiding sharing personal items such as combs, brushes, hats, or towels with others, especially in settings where fungal infections are prevalent.
  3. Treating and preventing fungal infections in pets to minimize the risk of transmission to humans.
  4. Seeking prompt medical attention for any signs or symptoms of scalp infection to prevent spread to others and minimize complications.

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Schedule an appointment with us today and take the first step towards reclaiming your confidence.


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