What is tinea capitis (ringworm of the scalp)?

Updated: Feb 21, 2020
  • Author: Marc Zachary Handler, MD; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
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Answer

Tinea capitis is a disease caused by superficial fungal infection of the skin of the scalp, eyebrows, and eyelashes, with a propensity for attacking hair shafts and follicles (see the image below). The disease is considered to be a form of superficial mycosis or dermatophytosis. Several synonyms are used, including ringworm of the scalp and tinea tonsurans. In the United States and other regions of the world, the incidence of tinea capitis is increasing. [1]

Gray-patch ringworm (microsporosis) is an ectothri Gray-patch ringworm (microsporosis) is an ectothrix infection or prepubertal tinea capitis seen here in an African American male child. Gray patch refers to the scaling with lack of inflammation, as noted in this patient. Hairs in the involved areas assume a characteristic dull, grayish, discolored appearance. Infected hairs are broken and shorter. Papular lesions around hair shafts spread and form typical patches of ring forms, as shown. Culture from the lesional hair grew Microsporum canis.

See 14 Rashes You Need to Know: Common Dermatologic Diagnoses, a Critical Images slideshow, for help identifying and treating various rashes.

Also, see the Back-to-School Illnesses: 15 Classroom Contagions slideshow to help identify conditions that may occur in young patients after they return to the classroom.


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