Scalp psoriasis is a common skin disease that results in raised, reddish, and often scaly patches. It can pop up either as a single patch or several patches, and can even impact your entire scalp. Further, it can spread to your forehead, the back of your neck, or even behind and inside your ears.
Scalp psoriasis is not something that you can catch from another person. Unlike with other types of skin disorders, this particular one’s cause is unknown. Skin specialists believe it comes from something wrong with the immune system, which makes the skin cells to grow too quickly and result in patches. You may be more prone to getting scalp psoriasis if it runs in the family.
What Are The Symptoms Of Scalp Psoriasis?
Psoriasis can pop up anywhere on the scalp. Sometimes a small patch forms, which can be easy to hide with your hair. Further, scalp psoriasis can cover the entire scalp. When psoriasis appears on the scalp, you may notice:
Dandruff-like Flaking And Silvery-white Scale
Scalp psoriasis tends to look a lot like dandruff. A lot of people with scalp psoriasis notice flaking, but there are major differences between dandruff and scalp psoriasis. Unlike dandruff, this skin disorder causes a silvery shine and dry scales to form on the scalp.
Reddish Patches on the Scalp
Some patches are merely noticeable. However, patches also can be very noticeable, inflamed, and thick.
Dryness And Itchiness
The scalp gets very dry causing itching. Itching is one of the most common symptoms of scalp psoriasis. For some people, the itch is mild while for others, it may be intense that can interfere with their everyday life and cause them sleepless nights.
Scratches are a common symptom of scalp psoriasis as it can be very itchy. And scratching can cause the scalp to bleed. Further, it also worsens the condition. Scratching can enlarge and thicken the patches. This is exactly why your dermatologist will tell you not to scratch your scalp even though it is itching a lot.
Burning Sensation Or Soreness
The scalp might burn sometimes and also feel highly sore.
Temporary Hair Loss
Scratching the scalp or using your hand to remove the scale forcefully can lead to hair loss. Once the scalp psoriasis goes away, the hair will start regrowing.
These are some signs and symptoms that can come and go. While some people have only one mild flare on their scalps, others may have several flare-ups, which can vary from mild to serious. A lot of things can trigger a flare-up, including cold, stress, and dry hair.
What Causes Scalp Psoriasis?
Psoriasis, including scalp psoriasis, is a widespread condition that appears to form when the immune system sends wrong signals to the body.
When the immune system sends the wrong messages to the skin cells, the cells multiply very quickly.
New cell formation on the scalp may take weeks generally. With psoriasis, cells form within a few days, which makes it difficult for the body to shed off the excess cells. Scaly patches start forming on the surface of the scalp as the skin cells build on it.
The exact cause of scalp psoriasis is not known, but research suggests that a genetic link might be a probable cause.
People who have a family member with scalp psoriasis are at higher risk of developing this condition.
In research published by nutritionists stated that psoriasis might be more likely in people who have dietary factors, such as gluten sensitivity and inflammatory factors that occur with obesity.
The National Psoriasis Foundation notes that a lot of other factors may trigger the symptoms in people prone to scalp psoriasis.
- an infection, especially strep throat
- an injury to the skin, such as a burn, cut, or bruise
- use of certain medications
- stress, which may worsen symptoms or trigger them for the first time
How Can You Manage Scalp Psoriasis?
Here are some tips to help you to manage scalp psoriasis:
A healthcare professional can prescribe a topical ointment or oral medication that will control symptoms and itchiness.
Avoid Scratching And Moisturize
Scratching leads to bleeding and possibly, even an infection. Keeping the scalp moist will not exactly cure psoriasis, but it may improve the appearance of the skin to some extent.
Treat The Scalp Gently
Avoid washing and combing your hair vigorously, as it can lead to breakage, especially if the hair is fragile due to treatment.
If possible, you should identify triggers for scalp psoriasis and consider ways to limit them.
It is important to get treatment, as it can reduce the risk of further complications, such as cracked hair or hair loss and bleeding skin on the scalp.
What Is The Treatment For Scalp Psoriasis?
At present, there is no cure for scalp psoriasis, but prescription and over-the-counter prescription treatments are available.
Both topical and systemic medications can help. Some sources also suggest natural remedies. The type of treatment depends on the extent or seriousness of the symptoms.
The National Psoriasis Foundation suggests that people might have to rotate treatments as their response to one medication can decrease after repeated use.
Topical medications which are generally in the form of a cream or shampoo work when applied directly on the affected area. The treatment may contain either one or a combination of coal tar, salicylic acid, and/or clobetasol propionate.
Shampoos may contain either one or a combination of the following.
Salicylic acid: Some topical treatments contain salicylic acid as it helps the outer layer of the skin to shed and makes the scales soft, which develop with scalp psoriasis.
However, shampoos and topical ointments that contain salicylic acid may cause skin irritation and weaken the hair, which may result in breakage of your hair.
Coal tar products: These products are derived from coal. Coal tar is said to slow down the growth of skin cells, to decrease itching and inflammation, and to restore a normal appearance to the skin.
A few studies suggest that using a shampoo that contains a 2–10 per cent coal-tar solution may help to some extent. However, many people do not like the smell and were concerned with the safety part of it.
Clobetasol propionate: Research has shown that shampoos with 0.05 per cent strength of clobetasol propionate are “highly effective” and safe for both initial treatment and maintenance, once other treatments have helped bring psoriasis under control.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that the treatment should not be used for more than four weeks. Also, people under 18 years should not use it.
Several shampoos and other products are available online, but it is advisable to check with your doctor for the ingredients that would be suitable for you.
Systemic medication is another option; if scalp psoriasis is moderate to severe and topical treatments do not work. The person takes an oral drug, and it works throughout the body. Even topical medications can help treat the condition.
Topical medications containing steroids may help decrease inflammation and itching.
In mild and limited cases of scalp psoriasis, a doctor may inject a lesion on the scalp with steroid medication. They will do this sparingly because steroids can have a range of adverse effects.
Light therapy may help in treating scalp psoriasis. The process involves exposing the scalp to ultraviolet light regularly with the help of a special lamp that emits UVB light.
This therapy should be done under the supervision of a doctor to avoid burns or overexposure.
People with psoriasis should not use tanning beds as they emit considerable amounts of UVA light which can be dangerous.
Herbal And Natural Remedies For Scalp Psoriasis
The National Psoriasis Foundation suggests that the following alternative preparations may help reduce the symptoms of psoriasis:
Products containing aloe vera or tea tree oil may help, but you must first check with your doctor to ensure their safety.
Apple Cider Vinegar: Applying organic apple cider vinegar directly to the scalp can help reduce itching. However, there is a chance it can cause irritation. In order to avoid this, dilute it in equal parts with water or rinse the scalp with water after the vinegar dries. You should remember not to use it on open wounds.
Aloe Vera: Applying gel or creams containing 0.5 per cent aloe vera might help reduce redness and scaling.
Oatmeal: Adding oatmeal to a bath or applying an oatmeal paste to regions with psoriasis helps reduce symptoms in some people. However, there is no research evidence as such to support this.
Tea tree oil: Although there is no scientific evidence to prove it, it may help relieve symptoms. Put on a little first as some people might suffer an allergic reaction to tea tree oil.
The Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) note that turmeric is usually considered safer when consumed by mouth or applied to the skin. However, you should check with your doctor before using any complementary therapies or supplements.
Capsaicin Ointment: It may help reduce itching by numbing the nerve endings, but also cause a burning sensation.
Dead Sea Salts: Adding these salts to a warm bath can help in relieving itching and scaling, but you should apply a moisturizer afterwards.
Oregon Grape: Topical creams with a 10-per cent concentration of Oregon grape may help treat mild to moderate psoriasis.
People should check the ingredients list before using any topical medication. Further, if you are thinking about using a complementary therapy, you should speak to a doctor first. Some remedies can come in the way of other medications.
Scalp psoriasis can be mild and almost unnoticeable. But it can also be intense, last for a long time, and cause thick, crusted sores. Severe itching can affect your sleep and daily activities, and scratching it a lot can lead to skin infections and hair loss. Hence, treating it with utmost care is important and the right course of medication can help in quick healing of the condition.