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.
The signs and symptoms of psoriasis vary depending on the type you have. Some common signs for plaque psoriasis -- the most common type of psoriasis -- include:
Plaques of red, inflamed skin, often covered with loose, silver-colored scales. These plaques may be itchy and painful and sometimes crack and bleed. In severe cases, the plaques will grow and merge into one another, covering large areas.
Disorders of the fingernails and toenails, including discoloration and pitting of the nails....
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
Burning or soreness
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.
If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor or dermatologist. He may simply take a look or do a skin biopsy to rule out similar conditions like seborrheic dermatitis.
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:
To work, these treatments must be put on your scalp, not just your hair. Follow the directions exactly until your skin heals, which can take 8 weeks or more. Once your psoriasis has cleared, you can help keep it from coming back by shampooing daily or twice-weekly with a product that has coal tar or other medications.