Information on Infectious Agents, Ringworms, Folliculitis, Piedra, Demodex folliculorum
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There are a number of infectious agents in the environment that contribute to hair loss. Some of these infectious agents are:

  • Ringworms

Ringworms are a type of fungal infection. It is a communicable skin condition that can occur in any part of the body. Ringworms can cause patches of hair loss when it develops on the scalp. The term tinea capitis is used to refer to ringworms that occur on an individual's scalp.

The fungus that causes ringworms penetrates the fibers of the hair in the affected area, causing the hair fibers to become brittle. The affected hair fibers can then break off easily, thereby leaving a bald area of skin. Ringworm on the scalp or tinea capitis normally begins development as a small pimple like growth that gradually expands in size. This leaves temporary patches of baldness on the scalp.

The areas affected by tinea capitis or ringworms usually become red, itchy, and inflamed. Some patches may break out in blisters. The patches are characterized by a redder circumference along the outside area as compared to the center which has a more normal skin tone. This red circumference creates the form of a ring, thus the name ringworm.

Ringworms are contagious and can be passed between one person to another through skin to skin contact. Ringworms may also be caught through the use of contaminated objects such as unwashed clothing, combs, and shower surfaces.

There are varied types of treatments for ringworm depending on the type of fungus involved. The most common antibiotic used to treat ringworm is Griseofulvin. Some other drugs used to treat tinea capitis are Terbinafine, Fluconazole, and Itraconazole. Some types of this disease are resolved spontaneously and will not require any form of treatment.

  • Folliculitis

Folliculities refers to the inflammation of hair follicles. This condition is characterized by growths much like acne with little rings of inflamed areas surrounding the hair follicle.

In the early stages of this condition, the hair fiber may still be inside the growth of folliculitis, however, upon progression, the hair fiber will fall out. In severe cases of folliculitis, the inflammation may cause permanent damage to the hair follicles, resulting in bald patches on the scalp.

Some forms of folliculitis, such as those cases caused by grease and oil on the skin, are not infectious. Folliculitis may also be caused by viral and fungal infections and may involve such agents as Herpes simplex, trichophyton rubrum, and Herpes zoster.

Mycitracin, bacitracin, neomycin, and other non-prescription antibiotics may be used to treat mild and moderate cases of folliculitis. Severe folliculitis may require oral antibiotics such as erythromycin for treatment.

  • Piedra

Trichomycosis Nodularis, commonly known as Piedra, is a condition characterized by the infection of hair fibers with fungus. A visible sign for a piedra infection is the growth of hard nodules on the hair. These nodules are a formed from the hardening of the substance known as ascostroma.

Two types of piedra exist: black piedra and white piedra. The difference among the two types is based on the cause of the condition. Black piedra is caused by a fungus known as Piedra iahortae commonly found in tropical countries. White piedra is caused by Trichosporon beigelii, a fungus typically found in Southern parts of the US and in Europe.

Piedra can affect the hair on scalp as well as on any other hair-growing surface of the body such as those in genital areas. Severe cases of piedra can weaken the hair fiber and cause them to break off resulting in diffused hair loss.

Treatment for piedra will require shaving off the hair in affected areas. An application of salicylic acid or formaldehyde to the affected area may also work.

  • Demodex folliculorum

Demodex folliculorum is caused by a little creature known as demodex. Demodex is a creature resembling a worm and lives on the skin as well as in the follicles of hair. These creatures thrive on dead skin and oils and are very common. Approximately 70% of all adults have demodex on their hair follicles. The presence of demodex are generally negligible; however, they may sometimes cause irritation which may be the worst that demodex can cause. The presence of demodex does not trigger hair loss.

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