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Skin Problems & Treatments Health Center

Ringworm of the Scalp or Beard - Topic Overview

This topic is about ringworm of the scalp or beard. For information about other fungal infections, see the topics:

Ringworm is an infection on your skin, hair, or nails. It is caused by a fungus. Ringworm of the scalp occurs in children and adults all over the world. It is most common in young children. Ringworm of the beard is not common.

Ringworm is not caused by a worm. Ringworm infections are caused by a fungus. 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. It spreads when you come into close contact with a person or animal that has it. It can also spread when you share hats, combs, brushes, towels, clothing, and other items. Children get ringworm more often than adults.

If an adult gets ringworm, he or she will most likely become a carrier of the ringworm fungus. Carriers can pass ringworm on to others but do not have symptoms of the disease.

You can also get ringworm by touching an infected dog or cat, although this form of ringworm is rare.

Ringworm of the scalpcamera.gif or beardcamera.gif often looks like round, bald patches. Most often, the infection spreads outward while the inside of the circle clears up. This makes the infection look like a ring. The name "ringworm" comes from this pattern.

But ringworm of the scalp or beard doesn't always make a ring pattern. Sometimes it just looks like dandruff. In some cases the hair breaks off, leaving stubble that looks like black dots. Sometimes people get ringworm but do not have any symptoms

In the most severe cases, the infected area is swollen, red, crusty, and painful, with small bumps that look like blisters.

Ringworm is contagious, meaning it can spread from one person to another easily. If you or someone in your family has the symptoms listed above, see your doctor.

If you have a ring-shaped rash, you very likely have ringworm. Your doctor will be able to tell for sure. He or she will probably look at a hair or skin sample under a microscope to check for the ringworm fungus. You may have other tests. But most of the time, none are needed.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: December 21, 2012
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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