An autoimmune condition that can affect the skin, scalp, nails, etc. is known as psoriasis. In this, a person will experience flaky skin or raised patches on the skin. The areas where one gets psoriasis might look like dandruff, but the scalp will also get dry scales as well as silvery sheen. Scalp Psoriasis can either occur in small patches or affect the entire scalp. In some severe conditions, it can spread from the ears to the hairline and go down to the neck. This condition is predominantly found in adults but might occur in children as well. Usually, psoriasis leads to dryness and is followed by plaques or red patches on the skin. People with black skin might get violet or purple spots instead of red.
When scalp psoriasis is only in its mild form, one may get scaly and small patches on the skin. However, in the case of severe scalp psoriasis, the following symptoms might be noted:
- Hair loss that is primarily in the affected area and is only temporary
- Red bumps
- Flaky skin
- A sensation of burning in the scalp
Hair loss is not a direct symptom of scalp psoriasis. However, if the affected person continually picks or scratches the patches of the skin, it might lead to hair loss, infections, or bleeding. With time, the condition might aggravate and spread to the forehead, neck, and ears.
How does one ascertain it is scalp psoriasis?
A few other skin conditions might have symptoms similar to scalp psoriasis. So, how can one be sure that it is scalp psoriasis? Ringwork, a fungal infection, leads to red rashes and a crusty formation on the scalp, which is mostly in the shape of a ring. On the other hand, in scalp psoriasis, though the affected area is dry and scaly, there’s no ring formation as such. Similarly, another skin disease called cradle cap is common in the babies and leads to a red patch or rash that looks moist or greasy, and its greasiness is something that separates it from scalp psoriasis.
Scalp psoriasis is a normal skin condition, which primarily develops when the immune system mistakenly sends across a wrong signal to the body. This message immediately reaches the skin cells, and the cells in the skin multiply hastily on the receipt of the message. Usually, the scalp’s cell formation can take up to a period of a few weeks. However, in a condition like psoriasis, cell formation takes place in days. As a result of this, it gets hard for the body to get rid of the excess cell. With this sudden multiplication, a scaly patchy appearance forms on the scalp. Though this is the usual process followed by the body, the exact cause of the scalp psoriasis is still not known. Researchers, however, link to it to genetics and lifestyle.
Some factors may pose a risk to the development of scalp psoriasis. However, the factor that may trigger the development of scalp psoriasis in one might not do the same for others. Here are a few common risk factors that may trigger scalp psoriasis.
Scalp psoriasis is more commonly found in people who are a bit on the obese side.
- Family history
If one’s parent or sibling had scalp psoriasis, then their chances of developing it are more.
People who smoke have a higher risk of developing scalp psoriasis than others. Furthermore, smoking will worsen the severity of scalp psoriasis symptoms in people who already have the disease.
- Bacterial or viral infections
People who have a weak immune system or experience recurring infections have a higher risk of scalp psoriasis. It is even more prevalent in people with HIV or young children with a more vulnerable immune system.
Since stress will have a direct impact on the immune system, taking stress can increase one’s risk of scalp psoriasis.
A few common triggers that aggravate the risk of scalp psoriasis or worsen the conditions of the infections include:
- not getting enough vitamin d
- regular alcohol consumption
- skin infection
- strep throat infection
- medications, such as iodides stress, lithium, antimalarial drugs, and beta-blockers
- skin injuries
For the diagnosis of scalp psoriasis, one’s medical health expert will ask them many questions to examine their skin and scalp. It will be followed by a biopsy performed under the microscope. This will give an assurance on the presence of the scalp psoriasis and rule out other diseases.
As such, there is no definite cure for scalp psoriasis. However, there are a few prescription treatments and over-the-counter help that can be availed. One can take either systemic or topical medications, as recommended by their healthcare professional. A few natural and home remedies also prove helpful in this regard. In all cases, the treatment strategy would depend on the severity of the symptoms and the extent of the disease.
According to the suggestions of the National Psoriasis Foundation, people might have to alternate between different treatments, as the response to a chosen medication might reduce when used repeatedly.
- Topical medications
The medications that are directly applied to the affected area are known as topical medicines. These primarily include a shampoo or a cream. The FDA recommends that the listed treatment shampoos should be used only by adults over 18 years of age, and neither of these should be used beyond a month. The shampoos designed to treat scalp psoriasis will have:
- Salicylic acid
Salicylic acid is a great treatment measure, which helps the skin’s outer layer to shed off and softens the scalp’s scales. However, shampoos that contain this acid might weaken the hair and cause breakage.
- Coal-tar products
There are certain products derived from coal, which are used in the shampoos for the treatment of scalp psoriasis. These shampoos lower the growth of the skin cells. It also helps the skin restore its healthy appearance. Further, it reduces inflammation and itching. Hence, to treat scalp psoriasis, one can switch to a shampoo with about 2 to 10% of the coal-tar solution. However, there are a few concerns related to coal-tar shampoos, and people often report a weird smell in shampoos containing coal tar.
- Clobetasol propionate
It is believed that shampoos that have even 0.05% of clobetasol are effective for treating scalp psoriasis.
- Topical creams
It is thought that the creams that have about 5 to 10% of salicylic acid are effective in reducing scaling. Furthermore, salicylic acid helps the penetration of other products far more effectively into the skin. However, it might lead to hair loss and hair thinning. One can use topical creams with:
- Vitamin-A derivatives
Tazorac is highly effective in slowing down cell growth.
- Topical corticosteroids
It is the most common type of treatment and is found in shampoos, ointments, creams, and foams. Skin atrophy is a common side-effect of this treatment.
- Coal-tar creams
Yes, the creams with coal tars are useful, but with the introduction of newer products, their popularity has declined.
- Vitamin-D derivatives
Dovonex works well to remove scales and reduce cell growth.
- Steroid-based treatment
Under this method, the topical medicines that contain steroids are used to lower itching and inflammation. Since steroids have a bunch of side effects, this treatment is only done sparingly.
- Systemic medication
In cases where the spread of scalp psoriasis is either severe or mild and topical remedies aren’t effective, systemic medicines will be prescribed. This drug is taken orally.
Some common examples of this treatment medication include:
- Biologic therapies
- Oral retinoids
- Light therapy
Light therapy, too, helps in the treatment of scalp psoriasis. In this, the scalp is regularly exposed to ultraviolet light by way of a unique lamp, which emits the UV light. To prevent overexposure or burns, this should be done only under a doctor’s supervision.
- Biologic drugs
Biological drugs are a newer form of treatment that targets the molecules present in the immune system. One example of this type of medication is Brodalumab (SILIQ). This medicine has serious side effects. It can make the consumer vulnerable to suicidal thoughts. Other types of biologic drugs include:
Since these drugs hamper the immune system’s response, they can make one prone to infections. So, if one takes these, regular expert monitoring is mandatory. Somebody with latent TB or frequent infections should never take these medicines.
- Natural remedies
There are specific natural remedies too that can help in the treatment of scalp psoriasis. These include:
- Aloe vera
The application of a cream that has about 0.5% of aloe vera can reduce scaling and redness.
- Apple cider vinegar
The application of apple cider vinegar (ACV) directly to the scalp can help reduce itching. However, over-application might lead to irritation. Thus, it is better to dilute ACV in equal parts with water and apply it.
- Shampoo that has tea tree oil
Tea tree oil shampoo can also help in treatment. However, apply only a little first as some people might be allergic to this.
- Oregon grape
Creams containing 10% Oregon grape are found to be effective in treating moderate cases of scalp psoriasis.
The application of oatmeal paste or adding oatmeal in one’s shower can reduce the symptoms of scalp psoriasis.
Regular consumption of turmeric as a supplement or a spice can reduce the symptoms of scalp psoriasis.
- Dead sea salts
The addition of dead sea salt in a warm bath can help relieve scaling and itching. Apply a moisturizer immediately after the shower, to avoid drying.
Soratinex helps in reducing psoriasis symptoms.
- Capsaicin ointment
One can use this medication, as it will have a numbing effect on the nerve endings and reduce itching. However, be careful with the usage, as it might lead to a bit of a burning sensation.
There are a few dietary components that trigger scalp psoriasis symptoms, while a few others might control it. Primarily, it is the anti-inflammatory foods that help avoid scalp psoriasis.
- Food to eat
- Vegetables and fruits, such as green leafy vegetables, berries, and cherries
- Healthy fats, such as seeds, olive oil, and nuts
- Spices and herbs, such as ginger, sage, thyme, and cumin
- Omega-3 fatty acids, such as walnuts, flaxseeds oil, and spinach
- Food to avoid
- Red meat
- Processed food
- Refined sugar
Dealing with scalp psoriasis
If one already has scalp psoriasis, certain tips will help them deal with it better. These tips are only an addition to the treatment measures and not a replacement for the same.
Does keeping the scalp moist help in curing scalp psoriasis? Well, not necessarily. However, one can better the appearance of the affected skin with the regular use of a moisturizer.
- Don’t scratch
When one has scalp psoriasis, they must avoid scratching, as it can lead to infection and bleeding.
- Be gentle
You should try to be gentle with the combing and washing of hair if you have scalp psoriasis. If one combs vigorously, it can lead to hair breakage, as the hair is already fragile because of treatment.
- Try avoiding triggers as much as possible
If scalp psoriasis is troubling a person frequently, they should try to identify the possible causes and triggers contributing to it. After that, they should try to work out ways to limit these triggers.
- Seek treatment
A good treatment measure is easily the most effective way of dealing with scalp psoriasis. A doctor will provide one with adequate oral medication or a topical ointment to overcome itchiness and other symptoms.
Since there’s no clarity on the exact cause of scalp psoriasis, it isn’t easy to prevent it. However, it is possible to treat the condition as and when the symptoms appear. One can also prevent it from aggravating. Every person is affected differently by this skin infection. In some people, the flare-up frequently happens, while most will have only occasional flare-ups. If one can analyze the cause or trigger, they’ll be better equipped at preventing it.