Q:

How are fungal scalp infections diagnosed?

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Quick Answer

Fungal scalp infections are diagnosed after a visual inspection of the scalp and observation of symptoms; scraping may be taken to confirm the diagnosis in a laboratory setting, according to eMedicineHealth. An examination using ultraviolet light is sometimes useful in spotting a certain ringworm or fungal species, although the species is not as common in the United States as it once was, so this diagnostic technique is rarely still used.

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Full Answer

Scrapings of the scalp in the affected area are used for microscopic studies. A surgical blade is usually used to scrape the area to obtain a sample for study, although a toothbrush run over the scalp, cotton swabs or moistened gauze may be used instead. After a sample has been collected, a solution of potassium hydroxide is added to a slide smeared with the specimen and observed under a microscope. The presence of fungal spores can yield a positive diagnosis, although it is only effective around half the time.

A culture of the specimen leads to a more definitive diagnosis. This method involves collecting the scrapings and placing them in a medium that serves as food for the fungi. If growth takes place, then fungi are present. It can take up to 10 days to make a diagnosis using the culture method.

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