Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin disease estimated to affect approximately 75 million people in the United States alone. Those who have psoriasis typically note the appearance of red, scaly, itchy bumps and rashes throughout various regions of their bodies. As the bumps and rashes progress, a plaque that is white, thick, and scaly in appearance forms. It is most common for these rashes, and eventually plaques, to form on the knees and elbows, though the plaques can form anywhere on the body. When rashes and plaque form on the scalp, however, this condition is referred to as scalp psoriasis. Scalp psoriasis develops in the same fashion as psoriasis in other regions of the body, but the surrounding hair can make it difficult to treat this area effectively.
If you are suffering from scalp psoriasis, you likely experience a range of symptoms, including itching, dryness, and a general sense of discomfort. As scalp psoriasis is similar in appearance to dandruff and can result in flaking skin, you may also feel a sense of embarrassment about your condition. While there is no cure for scalp psoriasis, understanding the causes and the treatment options available can help you successfully manage the condition to decrease its effects.
Causes of Scalp Psoriasis
While the exact cause of psoriasis is not fully understood, it is believed that sufferers have a genetic predisposition to the disease. This means that if other members in your family have psoriasis, you are more likely to suffer from the disease than most people. This predisposition alone, however, does not guarantee that everyone in your family will experience the effects of psoriasis, as this is also largely dependent upon your individual immune system. Other external factors and specific triggers are thought to play a large role in whether or not a person with the genes for psoriasis will actually experience symptoms. Some of the most common triggers include excessive levels of stress, injuries to the skin, allergies, skin infections, and taking certain medications that are unrelated to psoriasis, such as lithium.
If you do experience outbreaks, you may notice that they increase or decrease in intensity depending on the weather, your diet, and your overall health.
Treatment of Scalp Psoriasis
In many instances where scalp psoriasis is mild or moderate, it can be effectively treated with a topical medication. The topical medication may be in the form of a medicated shampoo, ointment, or moisturizer. With scalp psoriasis treatment methods that rely on topical products, it typically takes several weeks before noticeable results are seen. In cases of moderate to severe scalp psoriasis, or when the psoriasis does not respond to topical treatments, systemic medications (oral or injectable) may be used although many physicians may be reticent to use these medications for patients with solely scalp psoriasis. While picking or otherwise manipulating the lesions of psoriasis are not usually recommended, the flaky skin (what doctors call “scale”) of scalp psoriasis can become so thick that it is difficult to get medications to penetrate. When this is the case, various products can be applied to the scalp to loosen the scale and the patient can be encouraged to remove the scale manually (rubbing or massaging but not picking) while in the shower. Regardless of which treatment option you choose, be sure to follow the regimen as directed and avoid scratching or other trauma to your scalp. Scalp psoriasis does NOT significantly affect hair growth; you will not go bald from scalp psoriasis. If you are losing lots of hair or are seeing bald areas, you probably do not have scalp psoriasis.
Contact CDCRI for Scalp Psoriasis Treatment
If you are struggling to manage your scalp psoriasis, contact the experts at the California Dermatology and Clinical Research Institute today to explore your treatment options. Give us a call at (760) 203-3839.