Scalp Psoriasis is a form of the condition that affects the skin of the scalp. Like most psoriasis, it can be either mild or severe. In milder cases, symptoms may be barely noticeable but severe cases can cause intense itching, flaking and even bleeding when scales on the scalp are forcibly removed.
The thick, red patches of skin covered by silvery scales that characterize scalp psoriasis are usually not noticeable as they are contained beneath the hair, but sometimes in more severe cases they can extend beyond the hairline and even to the back of the neck or behind the ears, and this can become a cause of embarrassment.
In most cases, individuals who have it also have psoriasis on other parts of the body, but in some cases it may be isolated to the scalp itself. In any case, regular treatment can help to minimize symptoms and reduce the appearance of the condition.
What causes psoriasis of the scalp?
Like all psoriasis, the exact cause of scalp psoriasis is unknown. It is believed that an abnormality in the immune system causes skin cells to grow too quickly, leading to the formation of red, scaling patches. Doctors are unsure as to what causes this particular immune system abnormality but they do know that the condition is not contagious.
In scalp psoriasis, the patches can be thick and crusted, with silvery white scales and dandruff like flaking. They can be accompanied by a burning sensation and severe itching, which can lead to infection and, in some cases, hair loss.
The hair loss associated with this condition is generally caused by forceful scratching or sometimes as a side effect of treatment, but fortunately it is usually temporary and hair will regrow once the patches are cleared up.
How is scalp psoriasis treated?
Treatment for scalp psoriasis, as with any form of this condition, is temporarily effective and may need to be continued for quite a while or repeated frequently. The good news is that it is generally quite successful and you can live free of the uncomfortable symptoms of psoriasis if you follow your treatment plan carefully.
Washing your hair daily is a good way to combat scalp psoriasis as it helps to wash away dead skin cells and prevent build up. Moderate sunlight exposure of the scalp can also be helpful, as this can reduce the severity of lesions. Light therapy is one of the most popular and effective forms of treatment for this condition and is particularly effective when combined with tar or anthralin. Of course, excess UV exposure can be damaging to the skin, so you should be careful to limit exposure and avoid sunburn.
Aside from these measures, the best method of treatment for scalp psoriasis is topical medications. These can come in many forms including oil, cream, gel, ointment and shampoo. Because hair can often be an obstacle to treating the skin of the scalp, using medicated shampoo is often the easiest way to treat this particular form of psoriasis.
Over the counter shampoos specifically designed to treat scalp psoriasis usually contain either salicylic acid or coal tar. A tar based shampoo such as Tarsum, can be used in place of your regular shampoo. Simply rub onto the scalp, wait 15-20 minutes, and then rinse. Since tar based shampoos can cause discoloration of the hair, individuals with light hair may opt to use a medicated shampoo such as Head & Shoulders or Sebulex instead.
In more severe cases, your doctor may prescribe cortisone ointment to be rubbed into your scalp after shampooing or before bed. Anthralin, Dovonex (Vitamin D), and Tazarotene (Vitamin A) ointments may also be used, or for a more organic option you can try warm olive oil rubbed into the scalp and covered with a towel for 30 minutes.
No matter which treatment you use, you may find that your psoriasis becomes resistant after some time. If this is the case, simply suspend treatment for a few days and then start again.