Scalp ringworm or tinea capitis is a fungal infection of the scalp, often characterized by red, itchy, and bald patches on the scalp. The fungi that causes this condition are commonly known as dermatophytes. Sometimes, the fungal infection is also observed in the eyebrows and eyelashes. A healthy person contracts this fungal infection if he comes in direct contact with an infected person. The fungus can also spread from contaminated objects like combs, towels, and pillows. In some cases, infected animals like cats and dogs can also spread the fungal infection.
Ringworm on the scalp is most frequently observed in children, though it can affect people of any age. It mostly occurs in children aged 3 - 14 years. Children having a weak immune system or those suffering from diabetes, cancer, or HIV/AIDS, are most likely to be affected. In the United States, around 4 - 10 percent of the population is affected by scalp ringworm every year.
Scalp ringworm is always accompanied by severe hair loss. The most common symptoms are pain, itching, reddening and scaling of the scalp, and enlarged lymph nodes in the neck and behind the ears. Sometimes, pus-filled pustules may also appear. Another symptom is the formation of kerion. It is a large pus-filled lump, covered with pustules, and it oozes fluid. This infection can lead to permanent hair loss and scarring if not treated immediately. However, there are some effective treatment options which help in curing the infection.
You can prevent the spread of scalp ringworm with the help of some easy home remedies. Apply warm coconut oil on the scalp everyday. It reduces itching. A mixture of almond oil and Castor oil is also effective. Some raw vegetable juices applied on the scalp also provide relief from the itching. You can apply a paste of cassia and basil leaves on the scalp. It is a good home remedy.
Most doctors prescribe oral antifungal medication for treating the infection. A four-week course of the antifungal medicine Terbinafine is an effective treatment for scalp ringworm. However, it is very important that you complete the course so that the fungal infection is fully cured. Some other antifungal medicines include itraconazole and fluconazole. An 8 to 12 week course of the antifungal medicine Griseofulvin is an effective cure too.
The side effects of antifungal medications are very few. Some common side effects like skin reactions, diarrhea, indigestion, and nausea are observed in some people. Therefore, they should be used only after consultation with a medical practitioner or a dermatologist.
Antifungal creams or shampoos can also be used as a treatment option. However, these creams and shampoos only prevent the spread of fungus, and they are not very effective in curing the infection.
Scalp ringworm can spread from objects used by an infected person. You should not share combs, towels, pillows, and hair accessories with family members and friends. If your pet shows any signs of ringworm infection, like patches of missing fur, take him to the vet. Close contact with infected persons or pets should be avoided. Wash your hands with antifungal soap that contains tea tree oil. The infected person's clothes should be washed in hot water with fungicidal soap. The person affected should avoid scratching the scalp or the affected area. Scratching only increases the risk of spreading the fungal infection.
Instead of losing your hair over scalp ringworm, follow the treatment prescribed by your doctor. A healthy lifestyle and a balanced diet will help you treat the infection effectively.