What is scalp psoriasis?

Scalp psoriasis is a common term for psoriasis that forms on or near the scalp. It can also appear behind the ears or on the back of the neck.

What are the symptoms of scalp psoriasis?

The most common symptoms are reddish patches on the scalp and persistent itching. Scalp psoriasis can resemble dandruff with flakes but the patches are silvery-white. Other common symptoms are severely dry scalp and a sensation of burning or soreness. Some people also experience bleeding, especially if they are unable to resist scratching their scalp. For some, the itching is mild, but for others, severe itching causes sleeplessness and otherwise interferes with their daily life. Finally, scalp psoriasis can cause hair loss. This is usually only temporary and the hair regrows after the outbreak is treated.

What are the causes of scalp psoriasis?

Scalp psoriasis is similar to psoriasis in other parts of the body and it is common for people who have psoriasis elsewhere to have an outbreak on their scalp as well. All forms of psoriasis are caused when a malfunction in the immune system causes the body to make skin cells too rapidly and these excess skin cells stick to the surface of the skin. It is not contagious and research shows there is a strong genetic component, but outbreaks of psoriasis usually also have a trigger too. Common triggers include stress and cold or dry air.

What is the treatment and diagnosis?

Scalp psoriasis can be diagnosed with a visual examination at Dermatology of Seattle. Sometimes the dermatologist will remove a small piece of skin and have it analyzed by a lab to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment for scalp psoriasis often requires a different type of treatment than other types of psoriasis because skin on the scalp is thicker and covered with hair. Over the counter medicated shampoos may help mild cases, but a dermatologist can prescribe many effective treatments for more persistent cases. The most common treatments are topical medicines applied directly to the scalp and prescription medicated shampoos. Topical medications containing corticosteroids are very effective for most people and only need to be used for a brief period.

For more persistent cases, other treatments such as light therapy or direct injections of corticosteroids into the scalp may be recommended. If these treatments are not effective, a dermatologist may prescribe medications that work on the immune system as well.