[Health Alert] Signs And Treatment Of Scalp Psoriasis May Surprise You

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Your scalp is itching all the time and keeps you from sleeping? You may have scalp psoriasis.

A person presumably with a scalp disorder holding their forehead.

Scalp psoriasis usually isn’t life-threatening, but it can be unattractive and cause discomfort. With that in mind, it requires prompt diagnosis and treatment.

Below, you’ll find out what psoriasis is, how you can detect it, and how it can be treated.

What Is Scalp Psoriasis?

Scalp psoriasis is a skin disorder that manifests itself in raised, reddish, and often scaly patches on the scalp [1].

This skin condition can affect the entire scalp, and it can also spread to other areas of your head – the forehead, the back of the neck, as well as behind or inside the ears.

The cause of scalp psoriasis is unknown, but it’s currently believed that it is triggered by a disorder in the immune system that causes an abnormally fast growth of skin on the scalp, leading to scaly patches.

The National Psoriasis Foundation/USA estimates that 45 to 56% of people with psoriasis have scalp psoriasis [2].

The severity of scalp psoriasis varies widely between individuals. In some people, it may be barely noticeable, while in others, it may trigger itching, thick sores, and temporary hair loss.

What Are The Signs Of Scalp Psoriasis?

Scalp psoriasis can be noticed through a number of signs and symptoms [1][2][3][4]:

  • Reddish skin patches. In severe cases, the patches look bumpy, thick, and inflamed. In mild cases, they are barely noticeable.
  • Silvery-white scale and dandruff-like flaking. Many people with scalp psoriasis experience skin flaking, like dandruff. However, unlike dandruff, scalp psoriasis also causes a dry and silvery sheen skin on the scalp.
  • Dry scalp. Often, skin affected by scalp psoriasis is very dry.
  • Bleeding. Scalp psoriasis can cause itching because you may damage your scalp as you scratch it. Besides, scratching can make the patches larger and thicker, as well as make them itch even more.
  • Temporary hair loss. Scratching or using force in an attempt to remove the affected skin can cause hair loss. Fortunately, this hair loss is usually temporary – your hair will most likely grow after your skin is treated.
  • Burning sensation and soreness.

Also, scalp psoriasis may indicate the presence of psoriatic arthritis [2]. So you should also be screened for psoriatic arthritis by a rheumatologist.

Scalp Psoriasis Treatment Options

Psoriasis on the scalp is typically treated differently than on other areas of the body. This is because the skin on the scalp is thicker, and hair may interfere as well [3].

There’s currently no cure for scalp psoriasis [1], but there is a wide range of treatments for it available [1][2].

Over-the-counter products

Some over-the-counter products may help you if you have mild scalp psoriasis.

When looking for over-the-counter treatments, look for these two active ingredients:

  • Salicylic acid. Salicylic acid softens plaques and scales, helping with their removal.
  • Tar made from coal or wood. This component is intended to reduce skin cell growth, inflammation, itching, and scaling.

Topical treatments

Topical treatments include shampoos, tars, topical steroids, and prescription topicals. Applying topical products can be difficult due to hair, but it appears to work for many people. In case topical treatments don’t bring the desired effect, you should try other methods.

Prescription topical treatments for scalp psoriasis include:

  • Anthralin.
  • Antimicrobials to treat bacterial or yeast infections that may accompany the disease.
  • Calcipotriene, a strong derivative of vitamin D.
  • Calcipotriene and betamethasone dipropionate, a combination of a vitamin D derivate and a strong steroid.
  • Tazarotene, a vitamin A derivative.

Note that vitamin derivates are more powerful than the vitamin supplements they are based on. Regular vitamins don’t help against scalp psoriasis.

Phototherapy

Phototherapy involves shining light on the affected area to slow skin growth.

Typically, ultraviolet light is used for phototherapy. Among other things, special UV combs are available to deliver the treatment to the entire scalp.

When entire-scalp treatment is not necessary, excimer lasers may be used instead – they deliver focused light to the affected areas of the scalp, avoiding healthy areas of the skin.

Medications

Doctors may prescribe medications if you have moderate or severe scalp psoriasis. Medications may be administered by mouth or injected into a vein.

Oral medications for scalp psoriasis include:

  • Corticosteroids.
  • Cyclosporine (Sandimmune).
  • Methotrexate (Rheumatrex).
  • A strong derivative of vitamin A (Soriatane).
  • Apremilast (Otezla).

Biologics like adalimumab (Humira), brodalumab (Siliq), or certolizumab peg (Cimzia) may help as well.

Talk To A Doctor If In Doubt

Scalp psoriasis requires treatment and is unlikely to go away on its own. If you suspect that you have scalp psoriasis, you should consult a doctor as soon as you can. Without treatment, scalp psoriasis may get very severe and affect your quality of life.

 

Sources:
  1. “Scalp Psoriasis”, WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/psoriasis/scalp-psoriasis.
  2. “Scalp Psoriasis”, National Psoriasis Foundation/USA, https://www.psoriasis.org/scalp/.
  3. “Scalp Psoriasis: Symptoms”, American Academy of Dermatology Association, https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/psoriasis/treatment/genitals/scalp-symptoms.
  4. “Psoriasis Symptoms”, UK NHS, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/psoriasis/symptoms/.
  5. “Scalp Psoriasis: Overview”, American Academy of Dermatology Association, https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/psoriasis/treatment/genitals/scalp-overview.
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