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This topic is about
ringworm of the scalp or beard. To learn more about other
fungal infections, see the topics:
is an infection on your skin, hair, or nails. It's caused by a
fungus. The medical term for fungal infections is
tinea, followed by a word that describes the location of infection. So ringworm of the scalp is tinea capitis, and ringworm
of the beard is tinea barbae.
Ringworm of the scalp occurs all over the world and is most common in young children. Ringworm of the
beard is not common.
Ringworm is caused by a fungus, not by a worm. The kinds of fungi (plural of fungus) that
cause ringworm live and spread on the top layer of the skin and on the hair.
Ringworm is contagious. You can catch it by touching a person or animal that has it or by sharing personal items such as hats, combs, brushes, towels, and clothing. The fungi can survive for several months on people, animals, and personal items.
Children are more likely to get ringworm than adults. When adults do get infected, they often become carriers. This means they don't have symptoms but can pass ringworm to others.
Ringworm of the
beard often looks like round, bald patches. In most cases, the infection spreads outward while the inside of the circle clears up.
This makes the infection look like a ring. That's why it's called "ringworm."
But ringworm doesn't always make a
ring pattern. Sometimes it looks like:
Ringworm spreads easily from one person to another. If anyone in your family has the
symptoms listed above, see your doctor.
Your doctor may be able to diagnose ringworm just by how the rash looks. To check for the ringworm fungus, your doctor may look at a hair or skin sample under a microscope.
This test is called a KOH preparation.
If it's not clear that you have ringworm, or if the treatment isn't working, your doctor may do a skin culture to find out what kind of germ is causing the problem.
Your doctor will prescribe pills that will kill the fungus.
And you can use special shampoo that may keep ringworm from spreading to
others. But you need to use the shampoo along with the pills. By itself, the shampoo can't completely destroy the fungi causing the infection.
Depending on the medicine you take:
If you treat
ringworm early, the hair in the bald spots will probably grow back. If you
don't treat it, the bald spots could be permanent.
If your child gets ringworm, ask the school nurse or local health department how long your child needs to stay out of school. Usually children can go to school after they have started treatment with antifungal medicine. You don't need to shave your child's head.
Ringworm of the scalp or beard
can come back after treatment has cleared the infection. To help prevent it from coming back:
Learning about ringworm of the scalp or beard:
The website FamilyDoctor.org is sponsored by the American Academy of Family Physicians. It offers information on adult and child health conditions and healthy living. There are topics on medicines, doctor visits, physical and mental health issues, parenting, and more.
Other Works Consulted
Elewski BE, et al. (2008). Terbinafine hydrochloride
oral granules versus oral griseofulvin suspension in children with tinea
capitis: Results of two randomized, investigator-blinded, multicenter,
international, controlled trials. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 59(1): 41–54.
Grossberg R (2011). Fungal diseases of the skin. In ET Bope et al., eds., Conn's Current Therapy 2011, pp. 869–871. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Habif TP, et al. (2011). Tinea of the beard (tinea barbae). In Skin Disease: Diagnosis and Treatment, 3rd ed., pp. 288–289. Edinburgh: Saunders.
Habif TP, et al. (2011). Tinea of the scalp (tinea capitis). In Skin Disease: Diagnosis and Treatment, 3rd ed., pp. 284–287. Edinburgh: Saunders.
Higgins EM (2010). Tinea capitis. In MG Lebwohl et al., eds., Treatment of Skin Disease: Comprehensive Therapeutic Strategies, 3rd ed., pp. 736–739. Edinburgh: Saunders Elsevier.
May 29, 2013
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
& John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
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