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Psoriasis Health Center

Scalp Psoriasis

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Topical Treatments continued...

Prescription products for scalp psoriasis may have higher concentrations of either or both of these, as well as other FDA-approved medications, such as:

  • Anthralin, an older prescription medication
  • Antimicrobials, which treat bacterial or yeast infections that can come with scalp psoriasis
  • Calcipotriene, a strong derivative (different form) of vitamin D
  • Calcipotriene and betamethasone dipropionate (a strong steroid)
  • Other topical steroids
  • Tazarotene, a derivative of vitamin A

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.

Office Treatments

If you have mild scalp psoriasis on a few areas, your doctor or dermatologist may consider injecting steroids directly into those areas.

If your symptoms don’t respond to topical treatments, phototherapy with a laser or non-laser light source may help. For example, the excimer laser focuses high-intensity light on affected areas and avoids the surrounding healthy skin. Ultraviolet (UV) light -- sometimes delivered with a hand-held device called a UV comb -- can be used to treat the entire scalp. If you have very thin hair, or a shaved head, your doctor may recommend that you go out in natural sunlight for brief periods.

Medications for Severe Scalp Psoriasis

If you have moderate to severe scalp psoriasis, your doctor may prescribe a drug you take by mouth or one that's injected or pumped through a needle into a vein. Oral medications include:

  • Corticosteroids
  • Cyclosporine
  • Methotrexate
  • A strong form of vitamin A, called a derivative
  • Vitamin D derivative

Since these medications can cause serious side effects, including liver damage, they require a doctor’s close eye. It's also important to know that oral vitamin derivatives are different from -- and more powerful than -- vitamin supplements bought over the counter. Ordinary vitamin A and D supplements do not help.

The latest class of FDA-approved medications are called biologics. These drugs, which you get by injection or IV, may keep your skin from making too many cells. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, five biologics may work:

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