Hair infections can be caused due to various factors and way of life of people including how we care for the hair and protect against infection. This article brings out 5 common scalp infectio\nns and discusses how they can be guarded against. Let’s go on to first of all discuss briefly on these 5 scalp infections before looking at how to guard against scalp infections in general.
Ringworm of the scalp is not really a worm, but a fungal infection. It gets the name ringworm because the fungus makes circular marks on the skin, often with flat centers and raised borders. The more proper name for ringworm is called Tinea capitis.
This infection affects your scalp and hair shafts, causing small patches of itchy, scaly skin. On the scalp, ringworm usually begins as a small pimple that progressively expands in size, leaving scaly patches of temporary baldness.
The fungus gets into the hair fibers in the affected area and these hairs become brittle and break off easily, leaving a bald patch of skin. Affected areas are often itchy, red, and inflamed, with scaly patches that may blister and ooze. The patches are usually redder around the outside with a more normal skin tone in the center.
Treatment for ringworm varies depending on the particular fungus involved. Some types of ringworm infection will go away spontaneously and no treatment is given. However, most commonly, griseofulvin, an anti-fungal, is used. Griseofulvin is very effective against fungi in hair and skin but it is not so good at treating yeast or bacterial infections. The drug gradually accumulates in the skin and hair.
It likes to bind with keratin, which is a key component of hair, skin, and nails, and blocks the fungus from infecting the keratin. More recently, some fungi that cause tinea capitis show some resistance to the drug, which means higher doses and longer courses of treatment. As an alternative to griseofulvin, newer anti-fungal drugs like terbinafine, itraconazole, and fluconazole can be prescribed.
Folliculitis is an inflammatory process involving any part of the hair follicle; it is most commonly secondary to infection. It is important to recognise non-infectious causes of folliculitis (e.g., eosinophilic folliculitis) as well as folliculitis primarily involving the scalp (e.g., folliculitis decalvans).
The condition manifests clinically as erythematous papules or pustules around hair follicles. In the early stages of a folliculitis, the hair fiber may still be present, but as the folliculitis progresses the hair often falls out. When folliculitis is severe, inflammation is so intense that it can permanently destroy the hair follicles, leaving little bald patches.
There are non-infectious forms of folliculitis, such as those caused by oils and greases applied to the skin that clog up the hair follicles, but folliculitis is usually due to a bacterial infection. Particularly common is an infection of the hair follicles by Staphylococcus aureus. “Hot tub folliculitis” is caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa which grows in inadequately chlorinated water.
Piedra (trichomycosis nodularis) happens when the hair fibers are infected by a fungus. The visible indicator of a piedra infection is development of hard nodules on hair fibers. Indeed, “piedra” is Spanish for stone. The nodules are a concretion of hyphae and fruiting bodies of the fungus, known as an ascostroma, from which the fungal spores are released.
There are two basic types of piedra: black piedra and white piedra, referring to the color of the nodules formed on the hair fiber. Black piedra is due to the fungus Piedraia hortae and is mostly found in tropical countries, while white piedra is due to Trichosporon beigelii and is found mostly in Europe and Southern parts of the United States.
Piedra infection may affect hairs of the scalp, body, and genital areas. Usually the infection is relatively benign. In parts of Malaysia, the nodules of black piedra are considered attractive and traditionally women encouraged its growth by sleeping with their hair buried in the soil.
However, when the infection is severe the fungus weakens the hair fiber, making it easy to break off. This can result in a patchy, diffuse hair loss. Treatment generally involves shaving off affected areas. Anti-fungals such as ketoconazole or terbinafine are also used.
Some people believe Demodex folliculorum contributes to hair loss and that removing it will enable hair regrowth. But the organism does not cause hair loss. Demodex is a little worm-like creature that likes to live on skin and in hair follicles. It feeds on dead skin and oils, so it particularly likes to live in hair follicles where there are lots of both.
Humans are born free of Demodex, but during childhood, through contact with others, the skin can become infected with it. For the most part, we never know they are there. They are benign, if repulsive, little creatures.
The most common problem with Demodex is that they may cause irritation, particularly in the eyelashes. If you have itchy eyelashes, Demodex may be the problem. However, this is as much as Demodex can do to you. It does not cause hair loss.
Seborrheic dermatitis is a common skin condition that mainly affects your scalp. It causes scaly patches, red skin and stubborn dandruff. Seborrheic dermatitis can also affect oily areas of the body, such as the face, sides of the nose, eyebrows, ears, eyelids and chest. Seborrheic dermatitis may go away without treatment. Or you may need many repeated treatments before the symptoms go away. And they may return later. Daily cleansing with a gentle soap and shampoo can help reduce oiliness and dead skin buildup.
Seborrheic dermatitis is also called dandruff, seborrheic eczema and seborrheic psoriasis. For infants, the condition is known as cradle cap and causes crusty, scaly patches on the scalp. There are several treatments for seborrheic dermatitis.
The simplest involves medicated anti-dandruff type shampoos to control the skin proliferation and scaling. Several shampoos might be recommended for alternating use on different days and each with its own particular activity. Shampoos for seborrheic dermatitis may contain sulfur, selenium sulfide, zinc pyrithione, tar, salicylic acid, or oil of cade.
Some dermatologists may also prescribe antibiotics to control the skin flora and in doing so indirectly reduce the inflammation. The inflammation may be directly treated using a corticosteroid cream or lotion to control the body’s immune response. Seborrheic dermatitis can be very persistent once it starts, so staying with treatment is required and preventative treatment is useful even when the symptoms are gone.
How to Guard Against Scalp Infections
Maintain proper hygiene
The best way to prevent scalp infection is to maintain proper hygiene. You can easily do that by cleaning your scalp on regular basis with a mild shampoo. Another thing you should always do is to use a clean comb in order to keep microorganisms at bay.
Besides, you should always wash your hair after getting a haircut and hands after combing your hair. If you suspect you have developed scalp infection, wash your hair with selenium sulphide shampoo twice in a week
Do not scratch the scalp
Scratching your head too harshly could also cause scalp infection. While combing your hair, prefer to use soft bristled hairbrushes to avoid causing damage to your scalp. Instead of scratching your hair with nails, massage your scalp with coconut or olive oil.
Do not share personal items
Do you share your personal care items with others? Well, it could be one of the reasons you are experiencing scalp infection. Therefore, it is best not to borrow or share things like hairbrushes, towels or headgears.
Perform a scalp check
You should perform scalp test twice a year to ensure that your scalp is not infected. You can use fungal shampoo or soaps once in two 15 days to prevent infections.
Live a healthy lifestyle
A poor diet and dehydration is one of the most common reasons that makes your scalp prone to infections. Therefore, it is important that you pay close attention to such factors while trying to prevent scalp infections. Avoid using hair dryers and heat treatments on your hair frequently.
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