Scalp psoriasis is a common condition that affects more than 125 million people in the world, which is about 2 to 3 percent of the population. The causes of this ongoing condition are still unknown. The symptoms of scalp psoriasis vary from mild and moderate to severe. For some patients psoriasis of scalp practically doesn’t hinder the quality of life while others may suffer from unpleasant symptoms that keep them looking for various remedies.
Over the years, the researchers came up with many different scalp psoriasis treatments. Their effect is aimed at alleviating the scalp psoriasis symptoms. However, full recovery is not possible. The condition is ongoing and many factors can trigger the breakouts. Most of the time psoriasis is not limited to the scalp. The flare-ups spread to other parts of the body, including the neck, arms, hands, feet, and torso.
Symptoms of Scalp Psoriasis
The symptoms of psoriasis on the scalp vary from person to person. Those who suffer from mild scalp psoriasis might not experience anything more than a few scaly patches on their heads. Meanwhile, people with moderate psoriasis of the scalp can have a number of symptoms that can come together and separately.
- Patches of red skin that are somewhat similar to the scab that forms over a wound.
- The flaking of the skin that’s similar to dandruff.
- The sensation of burning similar to what you might experience when soap gets into a minor wound.
- Itching is similar to the feeling that usually accompanies dandruff.
- Temporary hair loss due to too much scratching and harsh surface treatments.
All these symptoms can also occur when you get seborrheic dermatitis. However, the patches caused by psoriasis are much more prominent and, in most cases, tend to spread beyond the scalp to neck and around the ears. The seborrheic dermatitis breakouts are never dry while psoriasis patches are always dry and scaly.
There aren’t any special tests that can help diagnose scalp psoriasis. A professional dermatologist can make a diagnosis based on the patient’s words and the examination of the skin surface. In some cases, a dermatologist might need to do a skin biopsy in order to make the final decision. At the same time, examining the skin under a microscope can help the doctor identify the type of psoriasis a patient has. The result of the biopsy can be ready within one day.
What Causes Scalp Psoriasis?
Various research was done to understand the causes of scalp psoriasis. However, it’s still not hundred percent clear what causes this condition, which means there is no proven way to avoid it. American Academy of Dermatology advises that scalp psoriasis occurs when the immune system overreacts and sends improper signals to the skin cells.
Theoretically, the immune system believes that it needs to heal the skin and sends a signal for the skill cells to multiply quickly. As a result, plenty of extra skin cells are developed on the scalp and the body can’t deal with shedding the extra volume on time. As a result, the skin builds up on the scalp surface and turns into prominent dry patches.
One of the causes of psoriasis on the scalp is genetics. People can inherit the genes that can up their chances to develop scalp psoriasis. If your immediate family member suffers from psoriasis, then the chances of developing the condition are higher. Researchers found that 10 % of the population carry a gene, which may be responsible for scalp psoriasis. However, only 2 % -3% eventually get the condition.
Triggers of Scalp Psoriasis
While the initial cause of the psoriasis is still debatable, there are some factors that may trigger the condition for the first time and became the common causes of scalp psoriasis breakouts. Different people have their own set of triggers that can be found by the trial and error method. Meanwhile, all the below factors can trigger scalp psoriasis.
Stress is one of the most common scalp psoriasis causes. While the breakouts might not occur the moment you find yourself in a stressful situation, they can develop in the aftermath. People who suffer from psoriasis need to learn how to keep their stress under control and try to avoid a stressful situation. There are many useful techniques that can help avoid the unfortunate stress consequences, such as breathing exercises.
Heavy drinking can become a potent scalp psoriasis cause. People who consume alcohol on a daily basis might not be able to keep their scalp psoriasis under control. Meanwhile, drinking plenty of alcohol at once can also become a powerful trigger. While having a glass of wine at dinner might not become the cause of scalp psoriasis for everyone, it can be a trigger for many. If you can’t say “no” to alcohol intake, you need to limit it as much as possible in order to avoid breakouts.
While it is not proven, smoking is considered to be a scalp psoriasis trigger. You can avoid the breakouts by reducing the number of cigarettes smoked daily or quitting smoking altogether.
People who are prone to psoriasis can trigger the condition by accidently scraping or cutting the skin. In fact, any skin damage can lead to a flare-up. You have to be careful with shots, immunization, and even simple skin scratching. Even the smallest wound can become a trigger for a psoriasis breakout.
Getting a sunburn is one of the most common ways to start a flare-up. Long exposure to UV rays damages the skin and leads to breakouts. People, who are prone to scalp psoriasis, must always use sunscreen with high SPF and cover their heads when out in the sunlight.
Several medications can trigger the scalp psoriasis. Drug-induced psoriasis can cause mild to severe condition. In some cases, the breakouts stop when the person discontinues taking the medication. However, sometimes, the condition progresses even after the medication is canceled. People, who suffer from psoriasis or have immediate family with this condition, have to be careful when taking lithium-containing drugs, antimalarial medications, high blood pressure meds, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NAIDs), interferons, and some antibiotics.
Since the cause of scalp psoriasis is the overacting immune system, the breakout might be provoked when a person is sick with any infection, including the common cold. If the immune system is working hard to battle the infection in the body, it can also overreact when it comes to the skin cells. The most common infection-related psoriasis trigger is strep throat.
Obesity is a risk factor for people who are prone to scalp psoriasis. Excess weight can cause the immune system to overreact and produce flare-ups. Meanwhile, the psoriasis is likely to develop in skin folds and creases.
Certain foods can become potent psoriasis triggers for many patients. While you have to go with the trial and error method to determine which food might lead to flare-ups, there are few foods you have to be careful about consuming.
- Yeast and gluten become triggers for some people. Even though there are no studies to support this theory, the patients report that avoiding yeast and eating gluten-free food can help them deal with psoriasis outbreaks faster.
- High-fat dairy products are often the cause of inflammation inside the body. Eliminating whole milk and high-fat cheeses can be a smart decision for psoriasis sufferers. Some dairy can actually improve the condition but only its low-fat versions.
- Fatty red meat is another food that can cause inflammation. People with psoriasis should be avoiding it. Meanwhile, fatty red meat causes heart disease and since psoriasis sufferers are at greater risk for heart problems, such food should be avoided.
Treatment of Scalp Psoriasis
The variety of treatments for scalp psoriasis is impressive and needs to be discussed with your health care specialist. If you want to make sure that the flare-ups occur as rare as possible and don’t last long, you need an individual treatment approach, which can only be created by a professional. After you are initially diagnosed with psoriasis, no matter how mild it is, you need to consult your doctor.
The scalp psoriasis treatment is usually a set of different approaches, including lifestyle changes, physical therapy, diet, medication and natural remedies. Below are the treatments a doctor may prescribe to alleviate the symptoms of scalp psoriasis.
Topical steroids are the most common treatment for mild scalp psoriasis. The main goal of corticosteroids is to reduce inflammation, swelling, redness, and itchiness of the flare-ups. They come in various strengths so they must be prescribed by a doctor. This medication can’t be used longer than 3 weeks without the doctor’s consultation. Topical steroid use can lead to skin damage, stretchmarks, redness and dilated blood vessels. If used over a large skin surface, the topical steroids can affect internal organs.
Sedatives don’t directly deal with scalp psoriasis but they can eliminate such triggers as stress. Sedatives and tonics containing vitamins needed to keep the immune system intact are common ways to keep the flare-ups at bay.
Medicated shampoos containing coal tar can be used on a daily basis to eliminate the scaling patches on the scalp. Patients should follow the instructions closely in order not to worsen the condition. Read our article about shampoos and gels for psoriasis treatment.
Ultraviolet B(UVB) is the light that can be found in natural sunlight. It can be a good psoriasis treatment. However, getting enough UVB from natural sunlight is not always possible since extended sunlight exposure can lead to various problems. That is why psoriasis can be treated by exposing the affected area to the artificial UVB source for a certain period of time on a regular basis. At first, the symptoms might worsen but then the condition usually improves. Regular UVB treatments can reduce the need for other medication and keep the flare-ups to a minimum.
The excimer laser treatment deals with chronic psoriasis plaques. It works by applying a high-intensity UVB beam. This treatment is suitable for mild and moderate psoriasis. It can be a good choice for psoriasis that can resist other treatments. It takes at least four laser sessions to treat the problem. However, there is currently no long-term information about the effects of this treatment.
Phototherapy is exposing the skin to the UV light. This treatment is done on a regular basis and under the doctor’s supervision. It is extremely important to keep the treatment consistent; otherwise, the effects are greatly reduced.
Just like sedatives, antidepressant drugs can deal with the psychological component of the scalp psoriasis. They can reduce the anxiety and social phobia that often comes with severe psoriasis. Antidepressants and sedatives can also deal with the stress that causes the lesions. They can improve the quality of sleep and even reduce itching.
Besides doctor’s recommendations, there are home remedies for scalp psoriasis that can be taken advantage of. They can help alleviate the symptoms and keep off the breakouts for as long as possible. Home remedies for scalp psoriasis usually include vitamin-rich natural foods that can be used to create special tonics and creams.
Scalp Psoriasis Diet
One of the causes of scalp psoriasis is improper diet. Changing your eating habits will not cure the condition, however, it can keep you from gaining excess weight that can substantially worsen the psoriasis outbreaks and the overall quality of your life.
Probiotic-rich foods improve the digestion process, deal with inflammation in your body and boost the immunity system to prevent infections. Organic probiotic sources are kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, and miso soup. Eating probiotic-rich foods on a regular basis can significantly improve your health and reduce breakouts.
Increasing the amount of high-fiber food in your diet can lead to digestive system health improvement. Fresh and cooked fruits, vegetables, spaghetti, brown rice, nuts, and berries are all rich in fiber. The right fiber-rich foods balance in your diet can lead to good digestion health and immune system boost.
Since people suffering from psoriasis are more prone to skin cancer and heart disease, it’s important for them to consume plenty of antioxidant-rich foods. Such food includes beans, berries, nuts, and herbs. These foods help keep the skin moisturized and avoid extra flaking and premature aging signs. The anti-inflammatory abilities of antioxidant-rich foods can help prevent scalp psoriasis breakouts caused by skin damage.
Zinc-rich foods are important to keeping the skin healthy. Some studies showed that zinc can reduce pain and itching caused by scalp psoriasis outbreaks. Beef, lamb, chickpeas, seafood, spinach and pumpkin seeds are just a few foods with a high zinc content. Zinc improves the immune system and can help fight the common cold and strep throat.
Foods that contain vitamin A can help your breakouts disappear faster since they stimulate fast skin healing. Sweet potatoes, carrots, leafy greens, cantaloupes, and mango contain a high amount of vitamin A. This vitamin helps support the immune system and prevents the skin from being over dried and damaged.
People who eat foods, which are rich in Omega 3, enjoy a better mood since it can help fight depression. Meanwhile, it helps keep the skin moisturized. Many different benefits of omega-3 fatty acid have to do with improving your brain function as well. You can find this important fatty acid in salmon, herring, tuna, chia seeds, tuna, grass-fed beef, and dairy.
Vitamin D is one of the essential vitamins your body needs. Its deficiency can lead to some unfortunate consequences, such as stress fractures, depression, pains, and more. Scalp psoriasis sufferers with vitamin D deficiency can get more painful and itchy flare-ups. Making sure that you have plenty of vitamin D in your body can ease the symptoms of scalp psoriasis while boosting your immune system in order to avoid frequent breakouts. Eggs, mushrooms, caviar, and wild-caught fish are great sources of vitamin D.
Aloe Vera is one of the most popular scalp psoriasis home remedies. However, besides applying it to the lesions, you can also eat and drink it. The anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties of Aloe Vera help significantly improve the quality of life of psoriasis sufferers.
Overall, the best diet for psoriasis is a healthy diet. Scalp psoriasis sufferers should avoid greasy high-fat foods, alcohol, and gluten.
Scalp Psoriasis Treatment Tips
While it’s impossible to cure scalp psoriasis, there are a few tips that can help make your life easier.
Moisturize Your Skin
Moisturize your skin from outside and inside. Besides keeping to a healthy diet, make sure you use moisturizing creams on a daily basis. This is especially important for cold and dry weather when the skin is prone to cracking. Moisturized skin is less prone to psoriasis outbreaks caused by skin damage. Apply moisturizing creams after you take a bath or a shower for better absorption.
Use Salicylic Acid
You can get this medication over the counter. While it won’t treat your psoriasis, salicylic acid is a great addition to any treatment. The acid allows you to get rid of the scales that cover the red psoriasis patches. It can improve the appearance of your lesions and help get rid of them faster.
Take Advantage of Preventive Measures
While it’s impossible to prevent scalp psoriasis, you can follow a few rules to keep it away for as long as possible. Pay close attention to the condition of your scalp. Allowing it to over dry can lead to lesions. As soon as you feel the flare-ups starting to occur, you need to take measures to prevent full-blown flare-ups. They include anti-psoriasis shampoo and other treatment prescribed by the doctor.
People whose immediate family members suffer from psoriasis must be especially careful about their scalp condition and see the doctor as soon as they have any scalp psoriasis symptoms.
Don’t Use Brushes
When you have scalp psoriasis, forget about the brushes. They can damage the skin on your head and worsen psoriasis outbreaks. When you need to take care of your hair, settle for combs.
Watch Your Reaction Closely
There are many scalp psoriasis treatments, but there are not created equal. Different people have different reactions to various topical and other medications. Make sure to pay close attention to how your body reacts to the remedies. Some might worsen your lesions instead of curing them.
Even though psoriasis is not contagious, it’s rather unpleasant to look at. People have trouble focusing their attention away from the lesions when they see them. In order to avoid unfortunate reactions, try to cover your flare-ups as much as possible. Scalp psoriasis is the easiest to deal with since it mostly occurs under your hair. If you have lesions around your ears and on the neck, opt for growing longer hair in order to cover them.
When Should You See a Doctor?
You should see a doctor the first time you develop scalp psoriasis in order to get it properly diagnosed and receive treatment advice. Once you know what type of psoriasis you have, you don’t need to make an appointment whenever you experience a flare-up unless:
- You are worried that the condition is getting worse.
- The symptoms are getting unbearable and substantially hinder the quality of your life.
- You notice infection of scalp psoriasis. The symptoms of scalp psoriasis infections are crusting, tenderness, and swollen lymph nodes.
- If besides having regular scalp psoriasis symptoms, you develop serious joint pain and stiffness, it might mean you are suffering from a more or less rare condition called psoriatic arthritis.
Scalp psoriasis is an unpleasant condition, which can easily be kept at bay with the right approach. If you take advantage of all the treatment options available today, you can substantially improve the quality of your life.