Tinea capitis is a fungal infection of the scalp.
Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors
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:
- Minor skin or scalp injuries
- Poor hygiene
- Wet skin for a long time (such as from sweating)
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.
Pictures & Images
Ringworm of the scalp
A fungal infection of the scalp by mold-like fungi is called tinea capitis. Tinea capitis (also called ringworm of the scalp) is a skin disorder that affects children almost exclusively. It can be persistent and very contagious. Symptoms may consist of itching, scaly, inflamed balding areas on the scalp. Oral antifungal medications are required to treat the infection.
Wood’s lamp test – of the scalp
A Wood’s lamp is a light that uses long wave ultraviolet light. When an area of scalp that is infected with tinea (a type of ringworm fungus) is viewed under a Wood’s light, the fungus may glow. This test may be done to detect the presence of a fungal scalp or skin infection.
Ringworm, tinea capitis – close-up
In the scalp, fungal infections often form circular, scaly, inflamed patches. Frequently, there can be temporary hair loss (hair returns when infection clears but if treatment is delayed and scarring results, permanent hair loss can be seen). This is a classical example of ringworm (tinea capitis) in a young child.
Review Date : 10/3/2008
Reviewed 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.