Understanding Scalp Psoriasis

Scalp Psoriasis is very frustrating to those who suffer with it.

Nearly four million Americans suffer from scalp psoriasis.  It is a condition that often leaves patients feeling embarrassed andScalp Psoriasis ashamed.  However, with swift and effective treatment, it is a condition that can be kept under control. 

An Introduction: What is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that causes skin cells to grow too quickly.  The result is thick, white, silvery, or red patches of skin. 

Normally, skin cell growth is gradual.  Every four weeks, the outer layer of skin flakes off and is replaced by new cells.  For psoriasis patients, skin cells reproduce rapidly instead of gradually.  Instead of taking weeks for the process to cycle, psoriasis causes the cells to push to the surface in just a few days.  The skin cells build up and form thick patches called plaques.  This condition can affect any skin surface. 

The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown.  However, it is probably a genetic issue since psoriasis tends to run in the family.  While there are a lot of unknowns about psoriasis, one thing is known for sure – psoriasis is not contagious.  That fact is probably of little comfort to the nearly 7.5 million sufferers of psoriasis in America. 

A Specific Type of Psoriasis: Scalp Psoriasis
Scalp psoriasis presents itself as raised, reddish, and often scaly patches.  More advanced cases can be accompanied by dandruff-like flaking, dry scalp, burning sensation or soreness.  Each case of scalp psoriasis is different.  It can materialize as a single patch or multiple patches.  It can affect only the scalp or advance to the forehead, back of the neck, or behind the ears. 

Nearly half of psoriasis sufferers experience scalp psoriasis.  For the fortunate ones, scalp psoriasis is mild and almost unnoticeable.  Unfortunately for others, the condition is severe and long lasting.  The extreme itchiness associated with scalp psoriasis often interferes with sleep and everyday life.  The itchiness is usually caused by the thick, crusted lesions.  In severe cases, the lesions can affect a person’s appearance.

Hair Loss
For many, hair loss is associated with scalp psoriasis.  The skin condition itself does not cause hair loss; the intense scratching, harsh treatments, and accompanying stress does.  Luckily, once the lesions are treated and stress is minimized, normal hair growth resumes.        

Treating Scalp Psoriasis
There isn’t a cure for scalp psoriasis.  However, there are many treatment options that will relieve symptoms, control flare-ups, and prevent recurrences.  You don’t have to tolerate severe scalp psoriasis for long; your doctor or dermatologist can help.

In addition to the medical treatment, psychological treatment is available for psoriasis patients as well.  Support groups can help reduce the emotional distress associated with this disease.  Additionally, conversing with others might reveal helpful home remedies and self-care tips to increase the effectiveness of medical treatments.   

Severity:  Mild
Mild cases of scalp psoriasis are tackled with topical treatments.  These include medicated shampoos, creams, gels, oils, ointments, and soaps.  Some products are available over the counter.  Other products, with stronger doses, require a prescription.

To be effective, topical medications must be applied directly to the scalp; simply massaging them into the hair won’t be helpful.  Also, these treatments must be executed exactly as the doctor recommended until lesions are under control (usually a minimum of eight weeks).  Once the scalp psoriasis has cleared, your doctor may recommend you continue with a coal tar shampoo a few times a week to prevent recurrences.  

Severity:  Moderate

If your scalp psoriasis doesn’t respond to topical treatments, other options are available.  Your doctor may use an excimer laser; a high-intensity light is focused on just the affected skin.  If the condition has spread to the entire scalp, an ultraviolet light might be helpful.  If you have very thin hair or a shaved head, your treatment will require less time in the doctor’s office and more time outside; briefly exposing your scalp to natural sunlight might do the trick.

Severity:  Severe
Cases of scalp psoriasis that don’t respond to other treatments or have advanced to the level of severe will be treated with oral, injected, or infused medication.  Ask your doctor about the newest class of FDA approved medications.

Author Jordan Dahlberg enjoys writing for various health blogs.  He specializes in hair-related concerns like scalp psoriasis, trichotillomania, and hair loss treatments (learn more here).    

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