You’ve likely heard of psoriasis before, as a common skin condition. Scalp psoriasis is really no different than the condition anywhere else on the body. It is fairly common, and it causes dry, itchy patches to appear on the skin of the scalp.
These patches can itch, burn, and be painful if not properly treated. It also can affect different areas of the scalp. In some cases, people will just experience one or two small patches. For others, it can spread to the forehead and even the neck.
Scalp psoriasis is more common than many people think. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, about half of the people who have this scaly skin condition have it on their scalp. It may require a slightly different treatment to other areas of the body. This is because the skin on the scalp is slightly thicker, and sometimes hair can prevent traditional treatments from working properly.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the causes and symptoms of scalp psoriasis. The more easily that you#re able to recognize the symptoms, the sooner you can begin treating the problem.
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Who is Most at Risk of Psoriasis of the Scalp?
Just about anyone who has plaque psoriasis can also get it on their scalp. It’s actually very common – up to 50% of people with psoriasis will get it on their scalp, as well. It’s less common to only develop the skin condition on the scalp. In rare cases, though, it can happen.
The general cause is the same, no matter where it shows up on the body. It is caused when skin cells grow too quickly. This is usually due to a weakened immune system, so it’s considered an autoimmune disease.
Psoriasis has also been linked to genetics. If someone in your family has struggled with the skin condition before, you may be more likely to get it. However, something usually has to trigger it in order for you to notice. You may be born with the genes that make the condition a possibility. But, without a trigger, you may never experience symptoms.
So, what is psoriasis of the scalp? Again, when the immune system is weak, it doesn’t always perform the functions it should – at least, not at the correct pace. Skin cells typically take weeks to form. During that time, the body is constantly shedding old skin. It’s a constant cycle. When skin cells grow too fast, forming in just days instead of weeks, the body can’t process them like it should.
The body regularly sheds skin cells. It’s a normal function, and when we produce cells at a standard rate, It’s a function we don’t even notice.
However, when we produce too many skin cells too quickly, the body cannot get rid of them fast enough. This causes a buildup, and layers of skin cells on top of each other. These buildups are what causes the scaly red patches of psoriasis. These patches come with a long list of irritating, and embarrassing symptoms.
Is Scalp Psoriasis Contagious?
It’s easy to think that psoriasis would be easy to catch from another person. It can look like an unsightly rash, and while it may not be the most appealing thing to touch, it’s not contagious. For many years, doctors confused the condition with other diseases, including leprosy. Unfortunately, some of these stigmas have stuck around.
Brushing against someone, kissing them, touching them, or even coming in direct contact with someone’s scalp who has the skin condition won’t cause you to get it. It’s a condition that starts from within the body, and isn’t spread from person to person through any kind of touch or bodily fluid. Genetics are the only way it could be considered contagious, but even then, there is no guarantee of getting the condition.
What Are the Most Common Symptoms?
Some people have such mild cases of psoriasis, they may not notice many symptoms other than some light itching. However, in more extreme cases, it can be impossible to ignore. Unfortunately, psoriasis can also last a long time, even with certain treatments.
It can be a bit easier to ignore or hide psoriasis on the scalp, especially if you have a lot of hair to cover it up. But, moderate to severe symptoms shouldn’t be ignored. Some of the warning signs to look for include:
- Reddish patches on the scalp.
- Scaling and flaking – This may appear similar to dandruff. However, flakes from psoriasis will have a silvery look to them.
- Dry scalp – This is one of the most common problems associated with scalp psoriasis. Having a dry scalp can cause itching, cracking, and bleeding. That can open you up to infection, if not treated properly.
- Itching – Between the dry scalp and the buildup of skin cells, itching is common with psoriasis. In some cases, it can be very mild. For some people, though, it can be relentless, and severely interfere with day to day life.
- Burning sensation and intense pain.
- Bleeding – When you scratch your scalp to relieve the itching sensation, it can make the skin condition even worse. Not only can it cause bleeding (and again, put you at risk for infection), but it can make the scaly patches even worse and more inflamed.
- Loss of hair – It’s not uncommon to try to remove the scaly patches or dig at them. Combined with consistent itching, psoriasis can lead to temporary hair loss. The good news is that the hair will eventually go back. However, depending on the severity of your case, it can cause patches of hair to be pulled out.
Many times, symptoms will come and go. Cases are different for everyone, but many people who have psoriasis of the scalp will experience flare ups. Flare ups can be mild or severe, and there are many possible triggers, including:
Again, the symptoms of psoriasis shouldn’t be ignored. No matter how minor or severe they are, it’s important to start a treatment plan to alleviate any discomfort.
If you experience any of the symptoms listed here, contact a dermatologist as soon as possible. Not only will they be able to provide a treatment solution, but they can rule out any other skin conditions or underlying health problems.
What Can I Do to Help with Psoriasis?
When a dermatologist looks at your condition, they will need to determine that it actually is psoriasis, and not another skin condition. Sometimes, they might even take a small sample of your skin for a biopsy.
Once it has been determined that you have scalp psoriasis, you can begin a treatment plan. Treatment is meant to ease any discomfort you may feel, and help to get rid of the symptoms that can sometimes be embarrassing.
Topical treatments are typically what a doctor will choose first. These are treatment options that are applied directly to your skin on the affected area(s). They can include everything from specialized psoriasis shampoos, to gels and creams. One option that works well is Era Organics Eczema and Psoriasis Cream.
Sometimes, you can even find these products over the counter. If you do choose to look for products that can help with scalp psoriasis, consider shampoos or ointments that contain either coal tar or salicylic acid.
In more severe cases, your doctor may suggest a prescription treatment option. These prescriptions usually either have a high concentration of the medications listed above, or other solutions like topical steroids.
Keep in mind that psoriasis doesn’t always go away easily. Even with strong prescriptions, it can take more than eight weeks in some cases for your skin to heal. The treatments need to focus on direct application to the scalp, not necessarily just a hair shampoo, etc. Once your skin has cleared up, you can switch to a maintenance treatment, like a shampoo or weekly topical treatment.
Will the Condition Ever Go Away?
Unfortunately, psoriasis is a lasting condition with no cure. Treatments are designed to help with the symptoms. In most cases, treatments can deal with those symptoms to the point where you may not notice the condition at all.
Treatment options can also help to control flare ups, no matter the situation. If you’re prone to psoriasis outbreaks, having a treatment plan ready can make a big difference. Or, if you know your symptoms can become extreme very quickly, a maintenance routine can help. If you follow a consistent treatment plan, it’s likely you won’t have to experience the painful and embarrassing symptoms of psoriasis for too long.
When you don’t properly take care of this common skin condition, it can really affect your life. It can even be discouraging to know there is no real cure, only symptom treatments. However, most people with the condition anywhere on the body can live perfectly normal and comfortable lives with the right type of treatment.