Scalp psoriasis is a common skin disorder that makes raised, reddish, often scaly patches. It can pop up as a single patch or several, and can even affect your entire scalp. It can also spread to your forehead, the back of your neck, or behind your ears.
You can’t catch scalp psoriasis from another person. As with other types, we don’t know what causes it. Doctors believe it comes from something wrong with your immune system that causes skin cells to grow too quickly and build up into patches. You may be more likely to get scalp psoriasis if it runs in your family.
About half of the estimated 7.5 million Americans with psoriasis - which can affect any skin surface - have it on their scalp. Sometimes the scalp is the only place they have it, but that’s uncommon.
Scalp psoriasis can be mild and almost unnoticeable. But it can also be severe, last a long time, and cause thick, crusted sores. Intense itching can affect your sleep and everyday life, and scratching a lot can lead to skin infections and hair loss.
Symptoms of mild scalp psoriasis may include only slight, fine scaling. Symptoms of moderate to severe scalp psoriasis include:
- Scaly, red, bumpy patches
- Silvery-white scales
- Dandruff-like flaking
- Dry scalp
- Burning or soreness
- Hair loss
Scalp psoriasis itself doesn’t cause hair loss, but scratching a lot or very hard, picking at the scaly spots, harsh treatments, and the stress that goes along with the condition can lead to temporary hair loss. Fortunately, your hair usually grows back after your skin clears.
The first line of defense is treatment you use directly on your skin: medicated shampoos, creams, gels, oils, ointments, and soaps. You can get some of these products over the counter, but stronger ones require a prescription.
Over-the-counter products often contain one of two medications approved by the FDA for psoriasis: