Psoriasis is a common skin condition and can affect both men and women of any age. This autoimmune condition can affect various areas of the body, including scalp, neck, forehead, back, hairline and the skin around the ears. Scalp psoriasis is very common. Did you know 45 to 56% of people living with psoriasis also have scalp psoriasis? The severity of the condition can differ from one person to the other. But no matter how severe your scalp psoriasis, there are enough options to treat the condition. The itchiness and flakes can be corrected with topical treatments, shampoos, oral treatments, light therapy and more.
Dealing with scalp psoriasis is not easy, it is recommended to consult a dermatologist to treat it better. However, if you have a lot of questions regarding this problem, we have all the answers. Right from causes to treatment options, in this article you will get all your doubts cleared about this skin condition. Since no one can explain a skin condition better than a skin expert, we consulted Amritsar-based dermatologist Dr. Ameesha Mahajan of RM Aesthetics to know more about scalp psoriasis. Read on to find out what triggers this skin condition and ways to treat it at home.
- What is scalp psoriasis?
- Causes of scalp psoriasis
- How to treat scalp psoriasis?
- Medical treatment for scalp psoriasis
- Home remedies for scalp psoriasis
- Difference between scalp psoriasis and dermatitis
- When to see a doctor?
- FAQs about scalp psoriasis
What is scalp psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition in which there is a buildup and accumulation of skin cells. It occurs as red patches with a lot of silvery scaling. These skin lesions can be itchy, they may crack and cause fissuring or even bleed sometimes if scratched a lot. It can affect any part of the body. When psoriasis affects the scalp, it’s called scalp psoriasis. Scalp psoriasis may also affect the back of the ears, forehead, and neck.
Causes of scalp psoriasis
The hallmark of a psoriatic lesion is that there is an uncontrolled increase in skin cells in certain areas of the skin. There is no specific reason as to why it happens in the first place, but there are two key factors which have a definitive role to play: genetics and autoimmunity.
Some people inherit genes that make them more likely to develop psoriasis. For example, if you have an immediate family member who has it, your risk of developing psoriasis is higher than a person who doesn’t have a family history of psoriasis.
There is also a role of autoimmunity in the development of psoriasis. What that means is, that our immune cells, which are there in the body to protect us against external agents, mistakenly attack our skin cells. This mistaken attack sends the skin cells into overdrive and there is a speedup in skin cell production. These cells which develop very quickly, form a pile and are seen as a heap of scales. This appears as a scaly patch on the skin and is termed as psoriasis.
How to treat scalp psoriasis?
Psoriasis gets better with treatment, but can be triggered from time to time by stress, cold weather or an infection in the body, alcohol and certain medications. Psoriasis cannot be cured, but it can definitely be treated. Treating scalp psoriasis can prevent severe symptoms and hairlessness. The type of treatment depends on the severity of scalp psoriasis.
Medical treatment for scalp psoriasis
1. Topical treatment:
The first treatment plan is using topical treatment to heal scalp psoriasis. The dermatologist will prescribe medicines to apply, this helps scalp psoriasis in all stages. The dose and type vary according to the severity of the disease.
2. Oral treatment:
Oral medicines are given to those with severe scalp psoriasis. Common medicines include methotrexate, cyclosporine or retinoids. The choice of medication and the dosage varies from case to case and is best decided by the treating dermatologist.
These are injectable medications which are used in more severe cases in which there is the involvement of the body along with scalp and the case is not responding to oral medication.
Phototherapy is a light therapy in which the affected area is exposed to a specific wavelength of ultraviolet light. UVB phototherapy is the preferred spectrum of light. It slows down the production of skin cells and makes the pain and itchiness go away too.
Certain shampoos with salicylic acid and coal tar are found beneficial in scalp psoriasis but they should be used under the supervision of a dermatologist. Do not self-medicate when it comes to skin conditions.
Home remedies for scalp psoriasis
Home remedies alone cannot help scalp psoriasis, but some people have claimed it helps in the reduction of symptoms when used along with prescribed treatments.
1. ACV solution:
Rinsing hair with apple cider vinegar and water may offer some relief. For this, take 1-2 tsp. ACV and mix it in a mug of water, then use it to wash the hair, it will help in the reduction of the scaling in some cases.
2. Coconut oil:
Dryness is a major concern in those dealing with psoriasis, therefore moisturising the area might help. Applying coconut oil has a definite benefit in moisturising the affected area and reducing the scaling.
3. Omega-3 fatty acids:
Diet also plays a vital role in managing scalp psoriasis. It helps in reducing inflammation and can be consumed in the form of fish or fish oil supplements.
4. Vitamin D:
Vitamin D has a definite association in regulating skin cell production. The best and most effective source of vitamin D is sunlight. 15-30 minutes of sun exposure daily helps with vitamin D levels and can cut down on redness and inflammation.
5. Aloe vera:
Fresh aloe vera gel has superior healing and calming properties. Cut a small portion from the leaf of the aloe vera plant and apply on the affected area at least three times a day. It will reduce itching and redness and keep the condition under control.
Difference between scalp psoriasis and dermatitis
There are many similarities between scalp psoriasis and dermatitis. Symptoms include redness and flaky skin and both conditions can affect the scalp. Scalp psoriasis has redness and silvery scaling while dermatitis is associated with yellow, greasy scales. The causes of both these conditions are different, scalp psoriasis is caused by immune dysfunction whereas dermatitis is a result of skin irritants like allergens. A doctor can tell the difference between the two by looking at the affected area.
When to see a doctor?
If the symptoms do not subside on their own within 4 weeks or there is the involvement of the skin around the scalp like forehead, nape of the neck, it is best to see a dermatologist. Also if the scaling is severe enough that you see a lot of scales on your pillow, you should consider consulting a dermatologist immediately. If you think that you are developing scalp psoriasis, also look for any skin lesions on the body like elbows and knees, any joint pains or nail thickening. If any other part of the body is also getting involved, it is the right time to consult a dermatologist.
FAQs about scalp psoriasis
1) What triggers scalp psoriasis?
A. Scalp psoriasis is not contagious, meaning you can’t contract it from another person. Your immune system is responsible for signaling the skin cells to grow too quickly and turn into patches. While the cause is unknown, stress, hormonal changes in women, smoking, excessive alcohol and cold weather can cause a flare-up.
2) What happens if the psoriasis is left untreated?
A. Mild cases of psoriasis don’t require treatment and usually heal on their own. However, if your condition does not improve after 4 weeks or spreads to other parts of the body, medical attention is necessary. If scalp psoriasis is left untreated, it may lead to hair loss and bald patches.