Psoriasis is a condition in which skin cells multiply faster than a normal person’s, causing areas with thickened skin. Psoriasis can happen on any part of the body, and the term “scalp psoriasis” simply means that the psoriasis occurs on the scalp.
The severity of the scalp psoriasis differs greatly from person to person. For some people, only a small area is affected, while for others, the affected parts can extend beyond the hairline onto the ears, forehead and neck. Some people might have psoriasis on their scalp only, while others could have psoriasis on other areas of the body.
Signs & Symptoms
- Red, swollen patches on the scalp
- Thickening of the skin
- Large flakes from the scalp
- Presence of silver scales
- Hair loss might occur, although this is temporary
When to Seek Medical Attention
See a doctor if:
- You suspect you have psoriasis but have not been diagnosed.
- Your symptoms are severe or getting worse, and you have difficulty performing day-to-day activities.
- You experience symptoms such as pus, fever and increased warmth and pain on your scalp. This suggests a possible bacterial infection.
- You are unable to get relief from over-the-counter options and think that you need stronger medications.
- Your symptoms flare up due to a medication that your doctor put you on.
Scalp psoriasis is thought to be related to an immune system dysfunction, although nobody knows exactly why it occurs. For more information, refer to psorasis.
Keep your hair short, as this would make it easier for you to use your medication.
Refrain from smoking and drinking as this can make your psoriasis worse.
It is important to moisturise when you suffer from psoriasis. One such treatment that you can use will be olive or coconut oil. Warm the oil and apply it to your scalp to soften the scales. Cover your head with a shower cap and cling wrap. When the scales are softened, place a fine-tooth comb parallel to the affected areas and move it in a circular motion to gently remove the scales. Comb out the skin debris and then wash it off with shampoo. Removing scales before apply medicines can help the latter to work better.
A medicated shampoo containing cetrimide can help to kill germs and clean your scalp. Combination shampoos with anti-itching ingredients are also available. This can be used with other treatment options.
Coal tar is a traditional treatment for psoriasis, used to ease itching and bring down swelling. Care should be taken during applications as it can stain linen and clothing permanently. It can also discolour bleached or highlighted hair. Try to avoid the sun when using this treatment as it can make you more prone to sunburns.
Salicylic acid is used to soften and loosen scales on the scalp. Because salicylic acid can irritate the skin and cause the skin to be more sensitive to sunlight, follow the instructions on the packaging carefully. Do not use salicylic acid that is indicated for warts and calluses as these contain a higher concentration than those used for psoriasis.
A topical corticosteroid can be used for a short duration of time to help bring down swelling and ease the itch. Hydrocortisone and desonide, which are mild steroids, are available from the pharmacy in a cream formulation. In addition, desonide is also available in a lotion, which is easier to spread on the scalp than creams due to the presence of hair. If these medications are not strong enough to manage your condition, see a doctor as more potent steroids are available.
If your scalp itches and makes it difficult to sleep, oral antihistamines can be of help. Some examples of drowsy antihistamines are diphenhydramine and promethazine. If you need to control your symptoms in the daytime, non-drowsy options such as loratidine and fexofenadine are available.
Your doctor might prescribe are Vitamin D analogue applications. If your psoriasis is severe, oral medications and injections might be required.