Many people experience having psoriasis on scalp and it is a common skin condition. It produces red, raised patches that are often also scaly. There may be one or many patches on the scalp and it could even affect the whole scalp and more, covering the neck, forehead and behind the ears.
This type of psoriasis is not contagious. Its cause is unknown, but most doctors believe it’s caused by an immune system disorder. It is possible that it may be genetic and you might be at higher risk if you have family members with psoriasis of any kind.
Almost 8 million Americans have some sort of psoriasis and about half of them suffer from psoriasis on scalp. It’s quite common to have both scalp psoriasis and other forms.
There are some cases of scalp psoriasis that are so mild they are barely even noticeable, yet other cases are extremely severe and cause thick, crusted patches that are obvious and noticeable by anyone the affected person goes near. A persistent and acute inching can be so bothersome it actually disrupts sleep and interferes with daily life. If the person gives in and frequently scratches, infection and hair loss can result. People who are affected by scalp psoriasis, particularly severe cases say that it causes them to feel ashamed and embarrassed.
Psoriasis on Scalp Symptoms
With mild cases, the only reported symptoms could be a fine, very slight scaling. Moderate and severe psoriasis
- White or silvery scales
- Flaking, such as with severe dandruff
- Red plaques
- Dry scalp
- Sore scalp
- Hair loss
Scalp psoriasis does not cause hair loss on its own, but after frequent or vigorous scratching, peeling off the scales or strong treatment methods, hair loss often results. The hair has no problem growing back once the psoriasis has been resolved.
If you have these symptoms, you should contact your dermatologist or family practice doctor. He will want to diagnose your symptoms to ensure they aren’t something more dangerous and may even need to take a biopsy.
Treating Psoriasis on the Scalp
There are many approved over-the-counter topical treatments that can be used to combat the effects of scalp psoriasis.
Topical products are the first choice for treatment since they have fewer side effects than oral drugs and are often quite effective. If your case of scalp psoriasis is quite severe, you may need a prescription topical treatment or other medication.
There are two main types of over-the-counter treatments:
- Those containing Salicylic acid
- Those that use coal tar
Salicylic acid is found in the bark of willow trees and works to help your skin shed more quickly, allowing the infected cells to come loose more easily and letting healthy skin grown in its stead.
Coal tar has been used as a skin treatment for thousands of years and is still used in many commercial dandruff shampoos.
There are several prescription products that contain much higher concentrations of salicylic acid and/or coal tar. Other medications authorized for treatment of psoriasis on scalp include:
- Anathralin,Several different antimicrobials, which would treat any bacterial or yeast infections in conjunction with the psoriasis
- Calcipotriene, which comes from vitamin D Steroids
- Tazarotene, which is derived from vitamin A
In order to effectively use a topical treatment, one must be certain to apply the ointment, shampoo, or salve directly to the scalp not just to the hair. It must be used exactly as directed until your symptoms are almost completely gone. It may take several days or even weeks, in the case of severe symptoms. Once the symptoms are completely gone it’s a good idea to keep using a shampoo that has coal tar or salicylic acid at least twice a week or daily if you think it’s necessary.
Other Treatment Options
Some doctors may consider treating mild cases of psoriasis on the scalp with steroid injections. Psoriasis that hasn’t responded to traditional over-the-counter or prescription topical treatments may be treated with phototherapy, either using a laser or other light source. Sometimes UV light can treat psoriasis quite effectively.
- Oral Medications
- Very severe psoriasis can be treated with oral medication.
- Vitamin A or Vitamin D derivatives