Ringworm of the scalp is caused by one of several varieties of mold-like fungi called dermatophytes. The fungi attack the outer layer of skin on the scalp and the hair shaft.
Ringworm isn't caused by a worm. The common name for the disorder refers to the ring-like or circular appearance of the infection on the skin.
Methods of transmission
Ringworm is contagious and can spread in the following ways:
- Human to human. Ringworm often spreads through direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected person.
- Object to human. Ringworm can spread through contact with objects or surfaces that an infected person or animal has touched, such as clothing, towels, bed linens, combs or brushes.
- Animal to human. Dogs and cats, especially puppies and kittens, are often carriers of ringworm. Other animals that are often carriers of the fungi include cows, goats, pigs and horses. Your child can contract ringworm by grooming or petting an animal with ringworm.
Other types of ringworm
The fungi that cause ringworm of the scalp can cause other infections on the body. These infections are generally classified by the part of the body affected. They include:
Feb. 21, 2014
- Ringworm of the body (tinea corporis). This form causes a red, scaly ring or circle of rash on the top layer of your skin.
- Athlete's foot (tinea pedis). This form of ringworm affects the moist areas between your toes and sometimes on the foot itself.
- Jock itch (tinea cruris). This form affects your genitals, inner upper thighs and buttocks.
- Dermatophytes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/fungal/dermatophytes. Accessed Sept. 13, 2013.
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- Goldstein AO, et al. Dermatophyte (tinea) infections. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 13, 2013.
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- Gibson LE (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Sept. 17, 2013.
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