What are the common causes of pus on the scalp?

A variety of conditions can lead to the development of pus on the scalp. One of the most common causes is folliculitis, where bacteria build up in the hair follicles of the scalp, leading to infections that can range from mild acne-like spots to deep, painful boils. Pus frequently develops in cases of ringworm, a fungal infection of the scalp that often affects children. It can also be the result of a condition called cellulitis dissecans, where large, uninfected pustules form under the skin of the scalp, damaging the follicles and typically causing hair loss.

Pus on the scalp is often caused by folliculitis. This condition, which is basically a bacterial infection of the follicles, can occur in a number of ways, including damage to the follicles due to excessive pulling or irritation, perspiration buildup on the scalp, or overexposure to hot or humid environments such as saunas or hot tubs. For some people, infections are mild and only affect the top layers of the skin, causing small white pustules that look like pimples. Others may develop more serious and deeper infections that can develop into hard, painful boils that require medical attention to prevent destruction and scarring of the follicle.

Another problem that often leads to pus on the scalp is ringworm, also known as tinea capitis. Ringworm is a highly contagious fungal infection that commonly occurs in children. It initially causes an itchy, scaly rash, but as the disease progresses, affected individuals may also have an allergic reaction to the fungus that causes swollen, pus-filled blisters to form in the area. These lesions can ooze and become infected, and if left untreated can lead to scarring and hair loss. Ringworm can often be successfully treated early on without a doctor's intervention using good hygiene and over-the-counter antifungal medications, but cases that don't clear up easily or show signs of more serious infection often require prescription medications.

Patients with dissecting cellulitis also often form pus on the scalp. One of the main symptoms of this condition is the formation of pustules under the skin over large areas of the scalp. These initial pockets of pus are usually not due to infection and do not contain bacteria. Over time, however, the condition can damage or destroy the follicles, and a secondary bacterial infection can occur. This condition often leads to significant scarring and baldness over large portions of the scalp.

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