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Ringworm – Tinea Corporis – Fungal Skin Infection

Fungal  infections of the body caused by dermatophytes are common among children who come into close contact with pets.  These infections appear as scaly flat rings with red edges and pale centers.  The rings grow and cover large areas of the body, including the face.

Since the external symptoms of the infection can be mistaken for other diseases (i.e. psoriasis), dermatophytes should be identified by demonstrating their presence in a culture of the scales.  Incorrect treatment, such as the use of medications containing cortisone, can worsen the infection and cause it to spread to other areas of the body.

Fungal Early Treatment-

Early treatment is critical.  Untreated fungus infections spread rapidly and can be transmitted to other members of the family.  Scarring occurs in certain cases, especially if the patient scratches the infected site, or if there is a secondary bacterial infection.  Washing the area with an antifungal soap containing iodine and applying fungicidal creams and ointments are only effective during the early stages of a fungus infection.  In most cases the attending dermatologist will recommend a fungicide taken orally for about two months.  In any event, whenever a fungus infection has been diagnosed it is important to determine its source.  If the source is found to be a family pet, the animal must be treated by a veterinarian.

FUNGAL INFECTIONS OF THE SCALP

The most common form of fungus infections of the scalp is ringworm.  It usually affects children and is only rarely found in adults.  It appears as round areas on the scalp from which the hairs have broken off.  If there is no severe inflammation, the area will be dry and covered with white scales and black dots, which are actually the stumps of the broken hairs.  When a severe inflammation is present, the affected areas are red, swollen and covered with a purulent discharge.  The presence of such an inflammation indicates that the fungus has penetrated into the skin of the scalp, and scarring will occur.  In severe cases there is fever and the lymph glands of the neck are swollen.

There is a less frequent form of fungus infection of the scalp called favus which also primarily affects babies and children.  If not properly treated, the disease can continue into adolescence.  In the presence of favus the hair loses its shine and the scalp turns red, with small, yellow, bowl-shaped scabs clinging to the skin and to the hair.  In certain instances there is an unpleasant odor (reminiscent of mouse’s urine), and sometimes the nails are affected.

TREATMENT

A fungus infection of the scalp can cause irreversible damage to the hair roots, leading to permanent bald patches.  It is therefore important to consult a dermatologist as soon as possible.  Such fungi are extremely infectious, and the patient should be isolated from other children until treatment has begun.  Topical medications and shampoos do not penetrate the skin of the scalp and do not destroy the fungus in the hair follicles.  It is now accepted practice to treat the disease orally.

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