Nearly seven million Americans suffer from psoriasis, with over half of them being affected by patches on their scalp. Patches are covered by thick white scales and may sometimes, but not always itch.
What causes scalp psoriasis?
The exact causes of scalp psoriasis (or any type of psoriasis, for that matter) are still unknown. The condition can affect any skin surface and is not contagious; however, there are several risk factors you need to be mindful of:
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- You are more likely to develop psoriasis if it runs in your family.
- It is believed the condition is related to auto-immunity (your immune system mistakenly treats normal cells as a threat and acts by destroying them)
Scalp psoriasis is characterized by a number of symptoms:
- Dry scalp
- Burning sensation
- Flaking (may look like dandruff)
- Hair loss
Treatment varies according the severity of the condition (mild, moderate or severe), responsiveness to any current or previous treatments, and also depends on whether or not you have psoriasis on other skin areas (in which case oral medication – ketoconazole – or injections are prescribed). While it may take a few months to get the condition under control, it can sometimes be completely managed and reversed.
Treatments for scalp psoriasis act in three steps:
Scale softeners like salicylic acid gels or products based on urea, lactic acid and phenol (a type of alcohol) are applied on the scales. Salicylic acid shampoo or soap is then used to remove the scales, which can be loosened with a special comb before removal. Petroleum jelly, steroid creams or similar creams/ointments are applied on the wet scalp and act as emollients.
This must be prescribed by a dermatologist. Part your hair and apply medication in tiny drips. Use ointment to gently rub it in – your doctor may recommend to keep a shower cap on for a while to boost effectiveness. Using more medication than necessary may result in hair loss, so please apply carefully and be mindful of your doctor’s instructions.
Topical steroids, shampoos with menthol, tar shampoos and antihistamines are the most common remedies for itchiness you don’t need a prescription for. It is highly recommended that you use conditioner after you wash your hair – also, avoid setting your hair dryer to a high temperature or, if possible, stop using one altogether. Should you be bothered by itchy areas, refrain from scratching and apply ice or a wet, cold towel instead.
A specialist treatment shampoo produced by Humankind Organics has received a lot of praise in online communities and you may wish to consider it after speaking to your doctor. Abstract Coal tar shampoos are also very effective – products with 2 to 10% coal tar solution are usually the most recommended. Clobetasol propionate shampoo is a new and very easy method to treat mild to severe scalp psoriasis.