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Tinea Capitis – How to combat a common scalp infection

What is Tinea Capitis?

Tinea Capitis is also known as scalp ringworm. It is caused by a superficial fungal infection (dermatophyte) of the scalp, skin, and eyebrows. The fungi that cause the infection are normally present on the skin of any healthy individual. Tinea Capitis can affect adults but predominantly affects school-going children.

What causes Tinea Capitis?

This infection is the result of an overgrowth of the microscopic fungi strain called dermatophytes. Dermatophytes are normally present in our environment and on our skin.

Is it contagious?

This condition is contagious. It is spread through touch. It can also be contracted by sharing clothing, towels, hats, hairbrushes, or touching infected furniture that has made contact with infected persons. This fungus can survive in the environment for extended periods, meaning infection can occur at a delayed time. It can also lurk in damp sandpits.

tinea capitis

What are the symptoms of Tinea Capitis?

  • One or more oval or round areas of greyish scaling on the scalp.
  • Hair loss may occur as the condition can damage the hair follicles.
  • The scalp may be itchy, dry, red and irritated.
  • In some cases, pustules may form with white or yellow heads or dry scabs and matted hair.
  • Occasionally the body reacts to the infection with a cutaneous (outer skin) rash somewhere else on the body, especially around the face, neck as well as palms of the hands or near the soles of the feet.
  • A complication of Tinea Capitis is a Kerion. A boggy, soft pus-filled mass on the scalp that may be accompanied by large cervical lymph nodes.

How is Tinea Capitis diagnosed?

Dr. Khoza will evaluate your symptoms, we always suspect tinea capitis in children who have both hair loss and a scaly scalp. Dr Khoza will take a sample of one of the scales on the scalp or pluck a hair and look at it under a microscope and start treatment immediately. Occasionally, some hair will be sent to a laboratory where it is cultured, meaning, the fungus is encouraged to grow in order to make it easier to identify. This process can take up to 6 weeks so diagnosis may take some time. Once the sample is cultured it will be examined under a microscope in order to give an accurate diagnosis. Once we confirm a diagnosis, treatment can commence.

How is Tinea Capitis treated?

We can cure this condition. It is important to treat the condition like an infection.

Treatments for tinea capitis include:

  • Oral antifungal medication – this is often prescribed immediately at the consultation if Dr. Khoza thinks the chances of a fungal infection are high. It lowers the chances of spreading it. Should she prescribe an antifungal at the consult and the test results reveal the prevalence of a different fungal infection, the medication can be changed.
  • Some of the antifungal medications are not suitable for children, while others need to be used with caution by women. It is not safe to fall pregnant while taking these medications.
  • Medicated shampoos – Shampoo containing 2% ketoconazole or 1% selenium sulphide will help to curb the spread of the disease and ease the infection.
  • After your treatment, another laboratory test will be performed to determine whether the fungus is under control. If the test still comes back positive, the second course of treatment may be necessary.
  • Untreated tinea capitis – If left untreated, this condition can lead to new conditions. Secondary bacterial infection of the skin is common. Scarring alopecia, permanent hair loss, is also expected.
  • Scarring hair loss means the hair is unable to grow back. For this reason, it is important to seek treatment, especially in cases involving children.

Daily life and preventing the spread of Tinea Capitis

  • Avoid visiting your hairdresser until the infection is completely clear.
  • Make it part of your daily habit to avoid sharing hair brushes, combs, and clothing.
  • Once you have your diagnosis, be sure to rid your house of the contagion too. Wash bedding in hot water, steam clean furniture, carpets, and wash all linen including towels.

While the condition is easy to cure, it’s important to seek help before you develop other permanent conditions as a side effect.
Bring balance back to your body, it starts with an accurate diagnosis. Book your consultation with Dr. Khoza, let’s get you facing the day with confidence: 031 581 2543 or info@durbanskindoctor.co.za

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