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Ringworm of the Scalp or Beard - Topic Overview

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This topic is about ringworm of the scalp or beard. To learn more about other fungal infections, see the topics:

What is ringworm of the scalp or beard?

Ringworm 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.

What causes ringworm of the scalp or beard?

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.

What does ringworm of the scalp or beard look like?

Ringworm of the scalpcamera.gif or beardcamera.gif 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:

  • Dandruff.
  • Patches of black dots, which are the stubble of hair that's broken off at the scalp.
  • Red, crusty, swollen areas with small bumps that look like blisters.

Ringworm spreads easily from one person to another. If anyone in your family has the symptoms listed above, see your doctor.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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