Scalp psoriasis



Scalp psoriasis is a kind of psoriasis. Psoriasis is a condition that affects the skin cells and makes changes in its life cycle. It can create a lot of distress and discomfort for the affected person. It results in a rapid collection of dead cells over the surface of skin, which may lead to the formation of silvery thick scales, and create itchy, red and dry patches which are often painful.

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Among the subjects affected by psoriasis, almost half of them are suffering from scalp psoriasis. Scalp psoriasis causes flakes, which results in the formation of dandruff-like, sticky plaques and thick scales over the skin. The signs of scalp psoriasis can spread to nearby areas such as back of the neck, face and back of the ears.

Symptoms of Scalp psoriasis

Some of the signs and symptoms of scalp psoriasis are:

  • Formation of itchy, red-colored patches on the scalp, covered by silver like white colored scales. The deposits of white scales can be seen on the shoulders of affected persons, or on their scalp hair, due to scratching of the head to soothe the itchiness.
  • Scalp psoriasis can be mild or severe. The mild one may have the fine formation of thin scales. Whereas the severe one would have the formation of thick scales and cake type plaques, covering the entire scalp area.
  • On rare occasions scalp psoriasis may spread to the adjacent areas, such as forehead, back of the neck, back of the ears and face.
  • If an affected person wears a colored cloth, the remains/flakes of scales over the shirt become visible. This can result in self consciousness which may eventually result in the affected person to suffer from depression, embarrassment and emotional distress.
  • Even though scalp psoriasis appears like other diseases such as seborrheic dermatitis, the characteristic that distinguishes scalp psoriasis from other skin ailments is the production of powdery flakes with silvery gloss. Seborrheic dermatitis, on the other hand, produces a greasy and yellowish look.
  • Normally scalp psoriasis does not cause any hair fall, but due to excessive scalp scratching by the affected person, there may be some loss of hair as well as hair fall.

Causes of Scalp psoriasis

The cause of scalp psoriasis is not known.

It is believed that the genetic predisposition within an individual can induce the malfunctioning of the immune system and thereby create conditions that increase the vulnerability to this skin disorder.

The body is protected from infection by the T-cells present in the immune system. But in patients of scalp psoriasis, it is believed that the T-cells mistake the healthy skin cells as rogue cells and go for a ruthless attack on such healthy cells.

To be able to have a constant fight, the overactive T-cells produce more red and white blood corpuscles and prepare an army for the fight, resulting in the death of increasing number of healthy cells. This causes the deposits of scales on the skin surface. As the attacks of the T-cells are rapid and quick, it leaves no time for such dead cells to slowly wither off from the surface of the skin.  The scaly deposits on the skin surface continue which gives the condition its characteristic appearance.

Some of the risk factors that increase the chances of developing scalp psoriasis are listed below:

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  • Injuries, viral and other infections, which imbalance the immune system and increase the risk of developing scalp psoriasis.
  • Extreme cold weather conditions also cause the condition
  • Bad habits, such as smoking and drinking not only stand as a cause but also work as a catalyst in increasing the severity level of the disorder.
  • Increased stress and tension can disturb the immune system and thus create the right conditions to trigger the symptoms of scalp psoriasis.
  • Uncontrolled excessive body weight also increase the risk to developing scalp psoriasis.
  • Side effects of certain medicines such as beta blockers, lithium etc. used for controlling some other diseases, can also cause scalp psoriasis.
  • A family history of this disease increases the risk as well.

Treatment of Scalp psoriasis

Though the medications given for treating the scalp psoriasis contain the same ingredients of those medicines meant for other types of psoriasis, it would be in liquid forms such as foams, shampoos, oils, etc. However the medicines for other types of psoriasis would be in the form of ointments and creams.

Doctor may prescribe the following medicines for treating scalp psoriasis:

  • Anthralin
  • Dovonex
  • Keratolytics
  • Doctor may advice some of the systemic drugs and biologics for treating scalp psoriasis.
  • Shampoo with menthol or tar shampoos may be given for alleviating itching. Oral antihistamines and topical corticosteroids can also be used in addition to the above drugs to get relief from itching.

Laser therapy:

  • The portion of the affected scalp can be exposed to the natural sunlight or to the artificial ultraviolet A or ultraviolet B rays. This treatment can be taken along with the prescribed drugs or alone. A controlled exposure to UV rays of sunlight or the artificial ultraviolet rays, destroy the overactive T-cells thereby helping to reduce the inflammation and scaling.
  • Narrowband UVB therapy, Excimer laser, UVB phototherapy, PUVA, Pulsed dye laser, Goeckerman therapy and combination of light therapy with retinoids are some of the forms of available laser therapies.

Scalp psoriasis pictures

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