Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD. Patient Handout

About Your Diagnosis

Tinea capitis of the scalp is a common childhood disease that is often confused with other conditions of the scalp. It frequently results in patchy hair loss. Although usually called ringworm because of its round appearance, tinea capitis is actually caused by a very common fungus. It rarely affects infants and adults. The most common age for infection is 2–10 years. It is transmitted by contact with other infected humans or from infected animals. Because symptoms are frequently minimal, it can go untreated for long periods. Tinea capitis is readily cured but usually requires weeks to months of treatment with medication taken by mouth. It is usually diagnosed by a doctor with a skin examination and cultures of a small sample of hair or infected skin. These are examined under a microscope. Culture results are usually available in 3 or 4 weeks.

Living With Your Diagnosis
Symptoms may be mild and initially include redness and swelling of the scalp, followed by hair loss. Pustules may be present. In some cases, a tender, swollen area with drainage may be present. When severe, tinea capitis can also cause fever and enlarged lymph nodes.

Tinea capitis of the scalp should always be treated under the direction of your doctor. Medications by mouth can cure tinea capitis, but treatment usually takes weeks to months. It is very important to continue the entire course of treatment and follow your doctor’s instructions until your doctor tells you to stop treatment; otherwise you will be prone to have recurrences. Medications by mouth are taken once or twice a day. Rarely these medications cause changes in liver function tests, and your doctor may periodically examine your stomach or order laboratory tests if necessary. Your doctor may also prescribe special creams or shampoos if necessary.

The DOs
• Avoid contact with infected individuals.
• Wash hair after every haircut.
• Continue treatment until your doctor tells you to stop.
• Check pets for skin infection or irritation, and consult your veterinarian if present.
• Check brothers and sisters for ringworm of the scalp.

The DON’Ts
• Don’t share combs, brushes, or hats.
• Close haircuts, shaving the head, or wearing caps are not necessary as long as you are taking your medication.

When to Call Your Doctor
• If fever, pus drainage, or swelling occurs.
• If other areas of the scalp or body become involved, despite treatment.
• If tinea capitis recurs after you have completed the course of treatment.