Tinea capitis is an infectious condition affecting the scalp and hair shafts. It is commonly called ringworm of the scalp, ringworm of the hair and tinea tonsurans. Also Read: Ringworm: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

It is a very contagious illness and mostly develops in toddlers and young children attending kindergarten and primary school.  However, in certain instances, this cutaneous condition can occur in adults as well.

Tinea capitis

Unlike what the name indicates, ringworm of the scalp is not prompted due to worms. The disorder is actually instigated by a group of mould-like fungi known as dermatophytes.

It is characterised by circular, ring-shaped marks on the scalp, which are flat towards the center, with protruding margins, thereby aptly bearing the title “ringworm of the scalp”.

In the majority of cases, tinea capitis is easily treatable with prescription medications. Only in very rare instances does it lead to grave inflammation and prominent scarring in the scalp, as well as bald regions, with irreversible hair loss.

Causes of Tinea Capitis:

Tinea capitis is induced as a result of infection by a cluster of fungi called dermatophytes. Currently, eight distinct species of Microsporum and Trichophyton fungi are reported to be responsible for this ailment.

Upon coming in contact with the scalp, the fungi firmly attach on to the stratum corneum, the outermost layer of the epidermis on the skin of the scalp. Being able to synthesize the enzyme keratinase, dermatophyte fungi absorb all the inherent keratin protein on hair and use it a source of nutrition, to multiply and thrive.

This, in turn, results in fungal infection all over the scalp and makes hair weak and brittle.

Tinea capitis is a contagious illness and hence can be widely dispersed from an infected human being or an animal – dogs, puppies, cats, and kittens, to a normal person by direct contact.

Other modes of transmission include inanimate objects like towels, bedsheets, mattresses, combs and brushes, which have been used by individuals with the ringworm fungal infection.


The foremost indication of tinea capitis is constant itching on the scalp. This is often accompanied by certain additional signs, such as:

If left unattended to in the initial stages, ringworm of the scalp can progress to deeper layers on the scalp skin, resulting in the appearance of a kerion, which is a pus-filled, crusty boil. This invariably leaves behind obvious bald areas and unsightly scars.


The doctor can easily identify an instance of tinea capitis by performing a complete visual scan of the scalp. Apart from this, the healthcare provider also employs special equipment known as a Wood’s lamp, to obtain a clear representation of the signs of scalp infection. Also Read: 4 Kinds Of Dandruff: Identify Which Type Is Causing Your Scalp To Itch & Flake

A Wood’s lamp utilises specific light rays that are focused on the regions of the body in a dark room. If any bacterial or fungal infection is present, the colour of the skin in that area changes, to highlight the exact location and nature of the disease.

In some cases, the physician may scrape off a small piece of tissue from the scalp or hair and analyse it under a microscope, to confirm the presence of infectious dermatophyte fungi in the person.


Most instances of tinea capitis can be treated completely. The medical expert prescribes antifungal medications to be taken orally, to combat the invading pathogens in the body.

Besides these medicines which effectively destroy the fungi from within the system, a potent topical shampoo is also advised to be used, to cleanse the scalp. This helps to control and prevent the fungi from extending to all areas of the scalp and spreading infection.

Although the mode of treatment for tinea capitis or ringworm of the scalp takes a while – at least four to six weeks, to heal infection thoroughly, it successfully cures the condition.

Following some basic hygienic practices such as not sharing personal items like combs and towels and staying away from pets, averts the spread of infection to other members in the family.