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What are the Different Types of Scalp Infections?

By Susan Grindstaff
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The most common types of scalp infections are typically fungal, bacterial, or virus induced. In some cases, they can be the result of an infestation of parasites. Scalp infections are common and typically do not pose any major health risks. They are considered the primary cause of hair loss not related to pattern baldness. Many treatments are available to help treat these infections.

Infectious folliculitis is a common type of scalp infection. It is more likely to occur to a scalp that has already been abraded either by wounding or excessive scratching. This leaves the scalp open and more susceptible to viruses and fungus. In infection folliculitis, the area directly surrounding the hair follicle can become reddened and puss-filled. If left untreated, it can cause large boils that can spread to other parts of the body.

Seborrheic dermatitis is actually a skin disorder, but it can lead to scalp infections that sometimes spread to the skin underneath the eyebrows and eyelashes. It causes the skin to scale and can be quite painful. It also causes excessive itching in the affected areas. It is often seen in babies, and is referred to as "cradle cap." Though the actual cause of seborrheic dermatitis is still unclear, it is believed to be genetic in nature.

Another common scalp infection is tinea capitis, more commonly referred to as ringworm. It is caused by a fungus and might spread to other parts of the body if left untreated. It starts as a tiny red bump that looks much like a pimple, and then gradually spreads out into the formation of a ring. People who suffer from this type of infection will often have severe scaling of the scalp, along with irritation and hair breakage. Ringworm is sometimes contagious, so it should be treated promptly.

Treatments for scalp infections vary, and many are available without prescription. Anti-bacterial and anti-fungal shampoos and creams are available at most drug stores. In addition, there are some home remedies that sometimes cure scalp infections. One home remedy that has been around for centuries is apple cider vinegar. Used as a daily rinse, it is believed to cure most types of scalp infections.

In cases where the infection does not respond to over-the-counter medications or home remedies, a physician should probably be consulted. Doctors can perform a variety of tests to determine exactly what type of infection is present. Once that has been determined, the proper course of treatment can be determined. In some cases, antibiotics are needed to completely clear up the infection.

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Discussion Comments

By anon330442 — On Apr 16, 2013

I've been having this problem for a while now. It has to do with an itch in my hair and flakes. Every time I scratch my scalp to take off flakes, I start to bleed. Any suggestions what it might be or what I can do to stop it?

By MrsPramm — On Oct 01, 2012

@browncoat - I hope she got it treated though. Sometimes it goes away on its own, but often fungal infections can linger and crop up again when you're not expecting them to.

I got a scalp infection when I was a kid because I was a bit of a nervous child and one of my unfortunate nervous habits was scratching at my head. Which sounds pretty awful, but kids don't tend to think about that.

When it got infected the scalp treatment was quite painful and that stopped me from scratching it again at least. It's really difficult to heal a scalp once it's infected though, so try to fix whatever the problem is before you get to that point, or you'll have a long slow process getting better.

By browncoat — On Oct 01, 2012

@pleonasm - It's not that bad, really. People associate ringworm with dirty conditions, but it's pretty easy to catch it, because the spores can live so long away from the body. Once you've had it once you usually won't catch it again.

My mother had it in her hair a little while ago, I suspect because she's a teacher and she caught it from one of the kids, and it quickly went away. I don't think she even lost any hair it was just a bit of itchy scalp.

By pleonasm — On Sep 30, 2012

I didn't realize that scalp infections can actually cause hair loss. I guess it would mostly be temporary loss, unless you scar your scalp from not getting the infection treated.

It must be awful to get ringworm on your head. I remember getting it as a child when we would bring home stray animals, as you can catch it from them, but it was usually on my arm, not in my hair. The thought makes me shudder.

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