Identifying and Treating Psoriasis on Scalp Areas

March 23, 2012By

People suffering from psoriasis on scalp areas can easily mistake the condition for dandruff at first, as the main symptoms are itching, flaking skin. However, it typically will not respond to dandruff shampoos and similar treatments, can cover a larger area, and is noticeably more severe than normal dry skin. Here are a few ways to recognize and treat scalp psoriasis:

Psoriasis on Your Scalp Areas…

Is it Psoriasis?

Photo of a woman with psoriasis on scalpWhile dandruff is essentially confined to appearing where hair grows, psoriatics may find psoriasis on other regions like the backs of the ears and the forehead. The affected areas may be red, inflamed, and/or covered in silver-white scales. The frequency, severity and coloring of the scales are good indicators of whether or not the condition is psoriasis. A doctor may need to take a biopsy to be sure, particularly if the patient doesn’t have psoriasis on other parts of their body.

What does it Mean?

There’s no permanent cure for scalp psoriasis, but it’s possible to manage it and reduce or even eliminate symptoms. However, it will require continued attention and treatment throughout life. There’s a common fear among psoriatics that their condition can make them lose their hair, but, in and of itself, the appearance of scalp psoriasis doesn’t cause hair loss. What can cause it are the ways sufferers react, such as scratching at it day and night until the hair falls out, or peeling away scales that still have a strong connection to the skin. As with any skin condition, psoriasis will only get worse with aggressive scratching of affected areas. Using soothing treatments to ease the itching and only removing easily dislodged scales are the best ways to avoid hair loss.

Treating Scalp Psoriasis at Home

Treatments for psoriasis on the scalp vary little from the treatments used for other areas—the only key difference is hair. People who shave their heads can often use the same treatments they would on any other part of the body, including the skin cream and scar removal cream they already own. However, this can also reveal the stubborn red patches and new-formed plaques that hair would cover up. Another option is to use a hairstyle that leaves portions of the scalp visible, such as cornrows, allowing direct access.

People who choose to shave or use such hairstyles can also benefit from sunlight exposure, as can people with particularly thin hair. Sunlight (in reasonable amounts) is thoroughly proven to improve the symptoms of many psoriatics, but it will not be able to penetrate thick hair in order to combat the condition effectively.

For those who wish to maintain their full head of hair, there are still plenty of options. Buy separate treatments designed to reach the scalp, such as oils or shampoos. Mild cases can often be treated effectively with salicylic acid, which can be found in some standard anti-dandruff treatments. Tar is a better choice for more severe cases, but those using it may wish to follow up with a second shampoo afterwards—tar treatments can smell bad, stain clothing, and leave hair greasy if they aren’t washed out. Menthol shampoos can be a great choice for this secondary option, since they’ll further reduce the itch. Reduced itch means reduced discomfort and scratching, which in turn means less severe symptoms.

Be sure to wash out shampoos and similar scalp treatments thoroughly and quickly with lukewarm water. Too much exposure to water, especially hot water, can cause the skin to lose moisture and actually worsen psoriasis symptoms, and can potentially cause regular dandruff as well.

Professional Medical Care

There are several prescription creams, injections, and more available for scalp psoriasis. Many of these are fairly safe, but some of the more powerful treatments may have negative side effects: steroids frequently applied to the scalp can sometimes reach the rest of the body, and certain injections and UV treatments are associated with an increased risk of skin cancer, which can be particularly hard to detect beneath hair. Finally, people with severe psoriasis may be given systemic care designed to prevent skin overproduction or the immune system malfunctions that cause psoriasis; those contemplating these methods should talk to their doctors about side effects and compare them against the benefits.

Having psoriasis on your scalp can be a challenge to live with, but it is manageable. If you’re suffering from psoriasis, seek medical advice—there are several options available for you.

Filed in: Skin Disorders Tags:

Comments are closed.