Tinea Capitis: Ringworm of the Scalp


Despite being primarily known by a single name, ringworm comes in a variety of different strains. In fact, there are at least 8 separate types that affect the human body alone, with different Latin names for each. Ringworm of the hand is a different kind of infection than ringworm of the foot, and a third strain exists that impacts the nails. Ringworm of the face, scalp, and beard are three separate strains as well. On the scalp, the Latin name for ringworm is tinea capitis, with tinea representing all ringworms and capitis signifying the unique strain that affects the scalp area. Even within a single type of ringworm there is variation though. Tinea capitis, for example, can be caused by a number of different fungi which each cause a unique manifestation of the infection.

In general, ringworm of the scalp is identifiable by splotchy and itchy bald areas with scaly skin and black spots where the hairs have broken off. Some individuals may experience a raised ring, inflammation, or crusting. Though the infection occurs in people of all ages, children are the most susceptible and most cases of tinea capitis in the United States arise on the heads of the young. Treatment is usually comprised of oral and topical medications. The oral medication (most typically, griseofulvin) is often considered a requirement to dispel the infection while the topical medications (such as special shampoos or steroid ointments) act as a tool to contain the infection and keep it from spreading to other parts of the individual’s scalp or other family members. When following the doctor’s instructions, ringworm can usually be healed in 6-8 weeks.

Unfortunately, severe cases of tinea capitis can cause permanent hair loss and scarring. The preferred course of action is to avoid transmission of ringworm altogether. This means keeping clean, avoiding physical contact with someone who is infected, monitoring pets (especially cats) for patches of hair loss, wearing sandals in locker rooms, refraining from sharing brushes or towels with others, and possibly using anti-fungal shampoo for all family members if someone in the household has ringworm. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if all hair loss could be prevented with just a bit of attentiveness to a few simple practices?

When ringworm of the scalp is past avoidance, there are many options for hiding or repairing areas of temporary baldness as well as restoring hair that was lost permanently due to scarring and impact of the infection. To explore the available possibilities, contact a hair restoration specialist for a complimentary consultation and analysis of your hair and scalp.