Those who are afflicted with scalp psoriasis understand how it can affect daily life. While some may only experience a mild case of psoriasis, others can develop a much more severe outbreak. While some people may only have one scaly patch on their scalp, others can develop them all over the scalp and even the back of the neck and behind the ears. While scalp psoriasis itself does not cause hair loss, constantly picking at and itching the scalp or pulling on the hair can make hair fall out. Stress is also another culprit for hair loss. The extreme and ongoing itching that comes along with psoriasis can cause sleeplessness, stress and overall low quality of life. The most common symptoms of scalp psoriasis include:
- Dry scalp
- Hair loss
- Scales that are silvery white in color
- Red bumps and patches on the scalp
- Thick, crusted sores on the scalp
- Soreness on the scalp
Psoriasis of the scalp
Just like psoriasis on other parts of the body, the cause of this common skin disorder is not exactly known. The medical community believes it stems from a problem with the body’s immune system that spurs the skin cells to grow at a quicker rate—days as opposed to weeks—than is normal and that’s when the patches develop. It’s estimated that approximately half of the 7.5 million Americans that suffer from psoriasis have it on their scalp. Most people that have scalp psoriasis have it elsewhere on their body as well. If other family members have psoriasis, it’s more likely you will develop it as well. “There still remains a lot to be learned about psoriasis, such as why people get it in the first place,” says Dr. Jeremy Fenton of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City. There is a strong genetic component. The immune system plays a large role as well. Infections such as strep can trigger flares of psoriasis, but we think this is more likely uncovering a predisposition for the disease, rather than an actual cause of it.
Scalp Psoriasis Treatment
It’s important to see a dermatologist for your psoriasis scalp treatment, which could require either in-office treatments or prescription medication. Not only can psoriasis cause discomfort, it can also be embarrassing. The best way to treat it is to see the dermatologist. There are some over the counter treatments for scalp psoriasis that contain either salicylic acid or coal tar, but there are many more treatment options that are much and can only be obtained at the dermatologist’s office. The most common topical prescription treatments for scalp psoriasis include topical steroids, Calcipotriene, Anthralin, and Tazarotene. All of these need to be placed on the scalp, not only on the hair. The treatment can take up to eight weeks or more to work. When the scalp psoriasis does clear, it’s best to continue using a shampoo that contains one of the over the counter active ingredients to treat scalp psoriasis. Another treatment option, if you do not respond to topical treatments, is UV light. This does not mean you should go out and expose your scalp to the sun. There are in-office treatments that use safe ultraviolet light to treat psoriasis. One of these lasers is called the Excimer. “Light therapy as a drug-free option has expanded as well. The excimer laser is designed to deliver a much larger and focused dose of ultraviolet light, giving great results without the need to expose the entire body,” explains Dr. Jeremy Fenton, a dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City. “The Excimer laser allows us to be more aggressive, because we aren’t exposing the entire body.” Living a healthy lifestyle can also improve one’s psoriasis. Stress can cause the hair to fall out, so it’s essential to manage the stress in your life. Practicing yoga and regular exercise can help alleviate stress associated with scalp psoriasis. If you are looking for another reason to lose weight, eat fruits and vegetables, and stop smoking – all of those can improve your psoriasis.