Ringworm and Hair Loss
Ringworm is a fungal infection that causes hair loss in childhood and, occasionally, adults. Recognising the symptoms of this condition can help to catch an infection before too much damage has been done. Your doctor can then help you to tackle the problem and good scalp care can reduce the risk of long-term damage.
What is Ringworm?Despite its name, ringworm doesn't actually have anything to do with worms. It does, however, cause the appearance of raised ring-like marks on the skin. These are usually reddish in colour and resemble worms; because they itch, they can create the feeling that something is crawling underneath the skin, but scratching will only make them worse.
Ringworm is caused by the fungus dermatophytis. There are many closely related types of this fungus and it can grow anywhere on the body, but the type that causes Hair Loss is specific to the scalp. It is highly infectious and easy to pick up from other people, especially in warm, moist environments like public swimming pools. You can also catch it from furry pets, so if your pet develops bald spots, take them to see the vet promptly. Occasionally, infected pets have no symptoms.
Ringworm and HairRingworm lives by eating your dead skin. Unfortunately, when it does so, it produces acidic waste products that damage healthy skin and hair follicles. Ringworm on the scalp causes hair to fell out in circular patches that gradually spread outwards.
Ringworm can also damage hair by getting inside the structure of the hair shaft itself. This means it isn't bound together as well as usual, so it can become brittle and snap off just above the roots. Patches of very short, broken hair are a clear sign of ringworm infection. In long- term infections, these patches can become crusted over with damaged skin. Some people suffer allergic reactions to the infection and experience swelling on the scalp as a result.
Treating RingwormThe good news is that ringworm is usually easy to treat. Your doctor can give you a two-week course of antifungal pills to take, after which you should find that the symptoms have gone away. Occasionally, longer courses of treatment are needed for stubborn infections, so follow your doctor's advice. It's important not to stop as soon as symptoms subside because the fungus can still be there underneath the skin and recurrent infections can become resistant to treatment.
Topical treatments are also available for ringworm, in the form of ointments you apply to the scalp. These can be effective in mild cases or as back-up for pill-based treatment. If you prefer to use natural methods, try a diluted solution of tea tree oil, which contains a natural anti-fungal agent.
Whatever method you use, good hygiene is essential in order to get rid of the infection completely. Be especially careful not to share combs, brushes, towels or any clothing that touches the head. Using a mild antifungal shampoo like Head & Shoulders Sensitive will reduce the risk of infection within your household, as well as easing your symptoms.
Recovering from Ringworm-Related Hair LossOne of the reasons why it's important to treat ringworm early is that prolonged infection can lead to scarring, creating areas of the scalp where hair won't grow. The good news is that these areas are usually small and careful styling can help you to disguise the problem. Woven-in Hair Patches are a good option for concealing larger damaged areas, though they should not be used until your hair has recovered.
To help your hair recover, it is best to cut it short. The reduced weight on each individual strand means it will be less likely to snap, and you'll get rid of the damaged part more quickly. If you don't want to do this, your best bet is to use a protein-formula shampoo, which will bind itself into the damaged parts of your hair and help to restore some of its strength and elasticity. Regular deep conditioning treatments are also important to prevent additional damage from dryness.
If you use a wig or hat to cover your hair as you wait for it to recover, it's really important that this is breathable. A non-breathable covering can create just the sort of warm, moist environment that will encourage any remnants of fungus to return in force.
Ringworm can be a very distressing condition but most people make a full recovery, including getting back their hair.