What Are The Most Common Scalp Psoriasis Symptoms
Youre probably wondering, What does scalp psoriasis looks like? Generally, you might notice flaking or scaly patches of raised skin on your scalp first, Dr. Bhutani says. These patches can also be inflamed, thick, and swollen6, and sometimes extend to the forehead, the back of the neck, or behind the ears. On light skin tones, psoriasis plaques on the scalp typically appear pink or red with silvery scales. For people with dark skin, these lesions may range in color and appear salmon-y pink, silvery white, violet, or brown, depending on your specific skin tone7.
But the signs of scalp psoriasis go far beyond the physical effects. Scalp psoriasis, honestly, causes some of the largest impact on quality of life, Dr. Bhutani says. Thats because severe symptoms can interrupt sleep, create feelings of anxiety, and hurt a persons self-esteem, especially if the scalp psoriasis plaques are clearly visible.
In addition to plaques, other scalp psoriasis symptoms include6:
- An extremely itchy scalp that can be distracting
- A burning sensation or soreness on your scalp
- Cracked and/or bleeding skin from scratching too much or from having a dry scalp
- Temporary hair loss if you excessively touch your scalp or attempt to pick off your scales, which can forcibly remove hair follicles
Systemic Treatments And Uv Light
If you have moderate to severe psoriasis elsewhere on your body, one of these medications may help:
- Methotrexateslows an enzyme involved in the rapid growth of skin cells.
- Oral retinoids help control the growth of cells.
- Cyclosporinelowers the immune system function, and therefore helps to reduce the inflammation of psoriasis.
- Biologics target specific parts of the immune system that are overactive in psoriasis.
Talk with your doctor about the potential side effects of these treatments.
Ultraviolet light is another treatment option. Hair can block the light from reaching your scalp, so if you have thick hair, it may help to part it in rows. Hand-held devices can directly deliver light to your scalp.
What Are The Symptoms Of Psoriasis
Psoriasis causes different symptoms in different people. Symptoms normally develop before age 45.
The most common symptoms are dry, raised, red patches of skin covered with silvery scales. The patches usually appear on the knees, elbow, lower back and scalp, but they can appear anywhere on the body.
Psoriasis can also cause dents and discolouration of the nails.
Some people get small, drop-shaped sores on the chest, arms, legs or scalp. Some people get swollen, painful joints.
The symptoms of some rare types of psoriasis include pus-filled blisters or a red, peeling rash that itches or burns intensely.
Cross section illustration of psoriasis
Close-up of psoriasis on skin
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What Are The Symptoms Of Scalp Psoriasis
Symptoms of scalp psoriasis vary.
Mild scalp psoriasis symptoms may involve only small, thin scales or flaking that looks like dandruff.
Moderate or severe scalp psoriasis symptoms include:
- Raised, discolored plaques with a white or silvery surface of dead skin cells.
- Plaques on most of your scalp or your entire scalp.
- Plaques along your hairline, forehead, the back of your neck or on the skin around your ears.
- Irritation or pain.
How Does Psoriasis Lead To Hair Loss
As well as being visibly noticeable, psoriasis can be unbearably itchy. The itching can get so bad it can interfere with sleep and your everyday interactions. And that’s not all. Too much scratching can cause temporary hair loss over time as the hair follicles become damaged. The aim is to avoid scratching even though it’s really difficult. “When the scale is shed, it tends to pull the hair out with it,” said Bard. “While the inflammation doesn’t specifically affect the hair follicle, inflammation of the scalp can have a detrimental effect on hair growth and can lead to shedding.”
Though psoriasis scales are upsetting to live with, you might also suffer from hair loss if you try to forcibly remove scales. The American Academy of Dermatology Association suggests avoiding scratching and picking at the scales to lessen the chance of aggravating the skin. They also recommended keeping fingernails short and filed down to reduce hair loss and limit the damage caused when scratching is the only option.
It’s important to note that psoriatic alopecia also known as hair loss due to psoriasis can affect the entire scalp, and some data suggests that those living with psoriasis are also potentially at risk of developing alopecia areata over time. This is why, if you’re living with severe psoriasis, you must check in with a dermatologist or health care professional to arrange an educated treatment plan.
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The Impact Of Facial Psoriasis
Around half of people with psoriasis will eventually experience symptoms on the face3. Most people with facial psoriasis symptoms also have symptoms on their scalps, which can spread onto the face. Symptoms on the face can be especially difficult to deal with because they are so visible to others, and not easy to hide. Treatment can also be tricky because the facial skin is so sensitive that many treatments are too harsh and cause irritation. However, there is a range of treatment strategies that people can try out in order to find the best way to relieve their symptoms.
Read more information on symptoms and treatments for psoriasis on the face.
How Is Psoriasis Diagnosed
There arent any special tests to help doctors diagnose psoriasis. Typically, a dermatologist will examine your skin and ask about your family history.
Youll likely be given a diagnosis based on this physical exam.
In some situations, doctors will remove a small sample of the skin and examine it under a microscope. This might allow them to get a better look at the affected area and make a more accurate diagnosis.
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Scalp Psoriasis Can Look A Lot Like Dandruff
While dandruff is accompanied by flaking and dryness, scalp psoriasis looks silvery and has well-defined red, raised plaques, not just flaking and dryness. The scales from psoriasis can flake off much like dandruff, says Richard Torbeck, MD, a dermatologist at Advanced Dermatology in New York City. Additionally, itching from psoriasis is quite similar to itching from dandruff. However, each condition needs to be treated very differently,” he adds.
What Is The Difference Between Scalp Psoriasis And Dandruff
Dandruff is a skin condition that affects your scalp. Its itchy, white or yellow flakes on your scalp. Medical researchers arent sure of the exact cause of dandruff, but they think factors may include:
- A yeast called Malassezia that overgrows on your skin.
- An increased level of androgens.
- An increased level of skin lipids.
- An inflammatory reaction.
Scalp psoriasis is an autoimmune disease.
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Research And Statistics: Who Has Psoriasis
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, about 7.5 million people in the United States have psoriasis. Most are white, but the skin disease also affects Black, Latino, and Asian Americans as well as Native Americans and Pacific Islanders.
The disease occurs about equally among men and women. According to the National Institutes of Health , it is more common in adults, and you are at a greater risk if someone in your family has it. A study published in September 2016 in the journal PLoS One concluded that interactions between particular genes as well as genetic and environmental factors play an important role in the diseases development.
People with psoriasis generally see their first symptoms between ages 15 and 30, although developing the disease between 50 and 60 years of age is also common.
The biggest factor for determining prognosis is the amount of disease someone has, says Michael P. Heffernan, MD, a dermatologist at the San Luis Dermatology and Laser Clinic in San Luis Obispo, California.
Are There Any Home Remedies For Scalp Psoriasis
While home remedies are safe for most people, its a good idea to check with your healthcare provider before trying some of the following options. You may be at risk of developing an allergic reaction.
- Aloe vera. Aloe vera is a wound care gel. It can keep your skin hydrated while treating itchiness and irritation. Gently apply aloe vera to your plaques two to three times per day.
- Baking soda. Mix 2 teaspoons of baking soda with a small amount of warm water to make a paste. Gently apply the paste to your plaques and leave it on for up to 10 minutes to treat itchiness and irritation. Baking sodas gritty texture also helps remove dead skin cells . Gently rub it on your affected areas to soften your plaques.
- Coconut oil. Coconut oil moisturizes your skin. It also contains anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that help reduce inflammation.
- Olive oil. Olive oil helps moisturize your dry skin and minimize irritation and itching.
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Say Yes To A Happier Healthier Scalp
Scalp psoriasis is a chronic condition that can affect your quality of life. Symptoms may include intense itching, inflammation, red and bumpy patches, scaly patches, a dry scalp, and sometimes temporary hair loss when you experience flare-ups.
While it may feel overwhelming, take comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. Millions of Americans live with this skin condition, and multiple at-home treatments can help relieve some of your symptoms.
When it comes to over-the-counter skincare products, always look for options with salicylic acid, like our Psoriasis Scalp Relief Treatment and Psoriasis Soothing Spray, which are specifically designed to help reduce psoriasis symptoms and give you the relief you’re after.
Better skin days are possible, even with psoriasis!
Products With Salicylic Acid
Many over-the-counter products can help you treat scalp psoriasis in the comfort of your own home. For this route, it’s important to look for products that contain coal tar or salicylic acid because these have incredible anti-inflammatory and anti-itching properties.
Our Psoriasis Scalp Relief Treatment is oil-free and contains salicylic acid to help reduce flaking and itching. With our exclusive blend of superior botanical ingredients, this treatment helps promote healthier, clearer-looking skin over time.
Earlier, we mentioned the benefits of soaking affected areas of your skin in oats or sea salts. After doing so, it’s essential to lock in hydration by immediately applying a vitamin-rich moisturizer, like our Psoriasis Soothing Spray.
This soothing spray contains salicylic acid and is specially formulated to help reduce irritation, flaking, scaling, and itching on the scalp. The spray application also makes it easy to target those troublesome, hard-to-reach areas.
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What Else Is There To Know About Scalp Psoriasis
Scalp psoriasis can really disrupt someone’s life and overall well-being. While you might think it’s solely a condition that affects the skin, in some cases, psoriatic arthritis can occur especially if the psoriasis is left untreated. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, out of the 8 million people with psoriasis, approximately one-third of them will develop psoriatic arthritis, affecting the joints and the tendons. Having psoriasis doesn’t guarantee a psoriatic arthritis diagnosis, but, unfortunately, the risk is higher. If you’re concerned, visit a rheumatologist to screen for the condition and catch it early if you can.
Keeping the scalp soothed and calm is integral to a healthy head of hair. Whether you’re dealing with scalp psoriasis or not, steering clear of astringent chemicals and highly perfumed products is the way forward. Invest in a hair wellness system that takes a gentle, natural and effective approach to maintain your mane and keep your crowning glory glossy and happy.
Do Scalp Psoriasis Home Remedies Work
How you take care of your hair and scalp can have a big impact on your scalp psoriasis flare-ups. In addition to the treatment plan your doctor recommends, you may want to try some of the following tips at home12:
Skip styling tools when possible: Since heat can further dry out your scalp and exacerbate symptoms, its best to avoid blow-drying, curling, and straightening tools if you can. When brushing your hair, use gentle pressure to avoid further irritation. If you have natural hair and are used to consistent styling that requires heat, talk to your dermatologist or stylist to figure out a plan that reduces the risk of potential flare-ups while maintaining the health of your hair.
Avoid the tight up-do: If you have longer hair and have hair loss, you may also want to avoid pulling it back tightly in a ponytail, since that can pull on the already-fragile scalp and possibly lead to more hair loss. If you must pull your hair back, keep the hair low and loose to prevent excess tugging.
Choose hair products wisely: Using certain hair products, such as hair dyes, can also be irritating to your scalp. Ask your dermatologist for brand recommendations or if there are ways your stylist can dye your hair that might be more gentle on your scalp.
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Is It Scalp Psoriasis Or Dandruff
More than half of all psoriasis patients have scalp psoriasis, according to the NPF. Itchy plaques can extend beyond the hairline onto the forehead, neck, and around the ears.
“Most people with scalp psoriasis have it on other parts of their body as well,” says Dina D. Strachan, MD, a dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.
Scalp psoriasis is sometimes confused with seborrheic dermatitis, or dandruff. According to Dr. Strachan, dandruff which causes a flaky, itchy scalp without signs of inflammation tends to itch more than scalp psoriasis. It has a greasy-appearing yellow scale, Strachan says. In contrast, psoriasis whether it’s on your scalp or any other body part tends to have a thick, silvery scale.”
Can Scalp Psoriasis Cause Hair Loss
No one likes the idea of losing hair, but, as we touched on a bit earlier, scalp psoriasis and hair loss can occur at the same time, even if scalp psoriasis doesnt necessarily cause hair loss. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, this hair loss is the result of damage to elements that hair is made of, including the hair shaft or hair follicles not a result of psoriasis itself. The damage can occur from rubbing, scratching, or excessive combing and from chemicals or ingredients in treatments and products.
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Tips For Managing Scalp Psoriasis
The following strategies can help people manage scalp psoriasis:
- Seek treatment: This is an important way to prevent complications, such as hair loss and cracked or bleeding skin. A healthcare professional may recommend one or two topical medications and possibly an oral, injected, or infused treatment.
- Treat the scalp gently: Avoid washing and combing the hair vigorously. This can lead to breakage, especially if the hair is fragile.
- Avoid scratching: Scratching can lead to bleeding and infection.
- Avoid triggers: Identifying and avoiding what triggers psoriasis symptoms is a key step.
- Following the treatment plan: Using topical medications consistently and exactly as prescribed is important, as it can take a while for symptoms to improve.
Also, ointments and creams may not spread easily on the scalp, so a person may prefer a spray, foam, or gel option if these are available.
If a person has sebopsoriasis, in which symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis overlap, the dandruff may worsen the symptoms of psoriasis. A doctor will recommend alternating an antifungal shampoo with a coal tar shampoo, as well as prescription medications.
Symptom: Red And White Patches
The most common form of the disease is plaque psoriasis. It looks like areas of thick, swollen, red patches with well-defined edges. On top of these areas are the silvery-white scales. It’s easy to knock them off and cause bleeding, so be gentle with yourself when you comb your hair, shampoo, or put on and take off hats.
What Questions Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider
- How can you tell that I have scalp psoriasis?
- If I dont have scalp psoriasis, what other skin condition might I have?
- How can I prevent flare-ups and control my symptoms?
- What medicines do you recommend?
- Do the medicines have any side effects?
- What at-home treatments do you recommend?
- Do the at-home treatments have any side effects?
- What else can I do to improve my symptoms?
- Is there a shampoo, cream or ointment you can prescribe?
It Can Affect The Scalp Hairline Forehead Back Of The Neck And Skin Around The Ears
Did You Know?
Symptoms may include fine scaling that looks like dandruff, or appear as thick, crusted plaques that cover the entire scalp. Other skin disorders, such as seborrheic dermatitis, may resemble psoriasis. However, scalp psoriasis appears powdery with a silvery sheen, while seborrheic dermatitis looks yellowish and greasy. Scalp psoriasis is common in patients of color, but treating it can be particularly tough due to the hair type.
Scalp psoriasis may be an indicator of psoriatic arthritis , as many people have both. If you think you have scalp psoriasis, see a dermatologist to diagnose scalp psoriasis and visit a rheumatologist to screen for psoriatic arthritis.
No matter how severe your scalp psoriasis is, there are options for treating the itching and flakes â from over-the-counter shampoos and topicals to light therapy, oral treatments and biologics.
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