Is Dandruff Caused By Fungal Infection? June 24, 2015

Dandruff is the manifestation of flaking of the scalp, resulting in itching, inflammation, redness and ugly white spots on hair locks. While it is otherwise harmless and does not result in further complications, it can be very embarrassing especially for those suffering an acute condition. Pegged down to improper hair-care routine, new studies call to question the validity of this reasoning, with studies indicating that dandruff could also be caused by a fungal infection on the scalp.

  • The body is constantly shedding dead skin cells, a natural phenomenon to rejuvenate itself. New cells replace dead ones once every 28 days. The dead cells are released as minute flakes that are discharged from your arms, legs, torso, head and neck as you pursue your regular activities.
  • As with other dead skin cells, dandruff also results from the shedding of dead skin cells. An exception however, is that dandruff is visible in the form of white flakes and can be embarrassing when it collects on the collar or back of shirts and T-shirts, leading to self-esteem issues treatable either medically or psychologically.
  • New discoveries by scientists indicate that dandruff may occur when a yeast-like fungus, the Malassezia fungus grows unchecked on the scalp.

What is Malassezia fungus? Is it a Dandruff Fungus?

  • This microscopic fungus is a normal inhabitant of your head, feeding off oil secreted by the hair follicles on the scalp. The by-products that are created when the feeding occurs cause itching and sometimes inflammation of the scalp.
  • In normal growth cycle, the Malassezia fungus lives on the scalp without causing flaking or itching. It is when there is an overgrowth of the fungus that dandruff is caused, leading to excess shedding on the scalp and hair, a visible and embarrassing condition.

[ Read: Dandruff Cause Hair Loss ]

Theories on Malassezia fungus

  • One theory suggests dandruff is caused by the immune system of the individual reacting to the fungus. This could occur due to a variety of conditions in the body, including body chemistry, excess perspiration and allergic reactions of the body to hair products. These conditions could lead to the fungus growing unchecked, causing itchiness, irritation, flaking and rapid cell turnover on the scalp.
  • As a result of excess growth, the normal cell turnover rate on the scalp, usually about a month, changes to about two weeks. This leads to many dead cells being shed at the same time, forming greasy clumps that are clearly visible to the naked eye. The oil secreted by the scalp causes the clumps to stick to the hair, leading to lifeless and dull hair.
  • A second theory indicates that dandruff is caused by Seborrheic dermatitis, or seborrhoea, a type of skin rash that affects the scalp, leading to itching, redness and inflammation.

[ Read: Cure Chronic Dandruff ]

  • This condition occurs most often in young adults, but can also occur at a more advanced age. This condition affects areas of the scalp where the sebaceous glands are present. These glands secrete oil or sebum to keep the hair strands soft and supple.
  • When the immune system of individuals reacts to the yeast germs present in the sebum, it leads to dandruff and flaking.

[ Read: Stress Cause Dandruff ]

To conclude, these theories give very believable reasons that are supported by extensive research regarding the Malassezia fungus being the cause of dandruff in most cases. If your scalp and hair show such similar symptoms, it is advisable to consult a trichologist or dermatologist to ascertain if you have been infected with this kind of fungus.

Often, dandruff gets worse when individuals are stressed, leading to clumps stuck to the hair. Cold and dry winters also trigger dandruff or worsen the condition. Regular washes can clear the hair of dandruff and flakes while treatment with Anti-Dandruff lotions can help to control dandruff and prevent further flaking of the hair.

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