Skin conditions and ailments are not uncommon nowadays. Today we will be talking about scalp psoriasis or psoriasis in the scalp, along with its symptoms, causes, and treatment.
Before we begin with the symptoms, it is necessary to know what exactly is psoriasis and how it is not only limited to the skin but also to the scalp.
1. What is Psoriasis
Psoriasis is a chronic condition of the skin that forms redness and patches on the skin with irritation. The immune system plays a role in the development of psoriasis, which is characterized by an increase in the rate of skin cell production.
These dead skin cells are then developed on the skin and then into scale-like coatings called plaques.
Psoriasis is a common lifelong condition with no remedy and can lead to a considerable amount of discomfort. This condition can be painful and it interferes with your daily routine.
1.1 Is Psoriasis Serious?
Though it is a skin disorder, psoriasis is linked with other things. Psoriasis has been linked to a variety of serious medical conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Psoriasis is linked to arthritis as well, as it causes diseases in the joints of people who are already suffering from psoriasis.
Psoriatic joint disease is a condition in which the joints become inflamed and is one of the primary symptoms of psoriasis.
Specific genes need to be present in your body for psoriasis to develop. It is not caused by any bacteria or fungi.
2. Psoriasis in Scalp
Scalp psoriasis is as common as skin psoriasis.
Technically, your scalp is also considered as skin. Patients with plaque psoriasis, commonly referred to as scalp psoriasis, are the most frequent type of psoriasis diagnosed.
It can either cover your whole scalp or occur in certain places on your scalp. Scalp psoriasis is a type of psoriasis on the scalp that can range from mild and barely noticeable to severe, long-lasting, and characterized by sores with thick crusts.
Strong itching can interfere with your sleep and daily activities, and excessive scratching might result in skin infections and hair loss.
However, some people might not feel discomfort at all depending on the intensity and condition.
Depending on the type of skin, the appearance of the patches on the scalp may vary from one person to another. The patches are usually red for light-skinned people, sometimes the patches are pink with white scales.
The lesions may be purple and the scales may be grey on darker skin. It may affect your entire scalp or just a few patches here and there.
Patches on the forehead, back of the neck, and behind and inside of the ears may also be susceptible to scalp psoriasis.
However, psoriasis is not a communicable disease, it cannot spread from one person to another. As with other types of psoriasis, physicians are still uncertain of the underlying cause of this condition.
But it can be passed on from generation to generation, so those with a family history are more susceptible.
2.1 Types of Scalp Psoriasis
Psoriasis can manifest itself in any area of the body, from the eyelids to the lips, the skin folds, the hands, the feet, and the nails.
Plaques and scales may appear simultaneously in multiple areas. There are five primary types of psoriasis.
Psoriasis in the scalp can be divided into 3 broad types based on the severity of the condition.
The first type is mild scalp psoriasis. It can almost go unnoticed as less than 3% of the skin surface of the body is affected.
There is moderate psoriasis on the scalp. About 3-10% of the body has scalp psoriasis symptoms.
The last type is severe psoriasis on the scalp. It occurs when a person’s immune system malfunctions, causing the skin cells to proliferate at an excessive rate.
The formation of new skin cells occurs over a period of days rather than weeks.
In severe psoriasis, more than 10% of the whole body is affected.
3. Symptoms of Scalp Psoriasis
Most symptoms of skin psoriasis can be easily seen and identifiable on the skin.
2 major signs of psoriasis are plaques, which are dry skin sores coated in scales. You can find them appearing on any part of the body, but most occurrences are witnessed on the elbows, lower back, knees, or scalp.
Plaques may cause itching, pain, or a combination of the two. The skin around the joints may rupture and bleed in severe cases.
Mild psoriasis symptoms are the least discomforting. It only involves a slight infection with light scaling a light pink patches.
If you’ve got moderate or severe psoriasis on your scalp, you may notice red or purple bumps, scales that look like silver or grey flecks, flakes that look like dandruff, dry skin, itching, burning, soreness, difficulty sleeping, trouble focusing, hair loss, and more.
Hair loss is not exactly caused by psoriasis itself, but rather due to the reactionary actions one might do while trying to deal with its symptoms.
If a person violently scratches or continuously keeps picking hard at the scaly spots it inevitably leads to hair loss.
Additionally, stress and other ailments that accompany scalp psoriasis and its harsh treatment methods also cause hair loss.
If you are facing any of the above-mentioned symptoms, it is advised that you go see a dermatologist immediately so that you can get checked for psoriasis and/or rule out the possibility of any other similar conditions.
*Psoriasis arthritis is an inflammatory disorder that sometimes accompanies psoriasis itself. The effects of this inflammation extend to other tissues and organs throughout the body.
It also includes swelling, joint pain, and stiffness. Psoriatic arthritis or PsA can often go undiagnosed.
Usually, the symptoms of psoriasis are seen between the ages of 15 to 25. Psoriasis can happen to people of all skin types and it is equally common in men and women.
4. Causes of Scalp Psoriasis
As previously mentioned, it is a disorder mediated by the immune system. That means it is caused by an unclear dysfunction in the immune system.
Doctors and scientists are still unable to find out the exact cause of psoriasis but since it is an immune system-related disorder, they have proposed it to be related to genetic factors.
The genes present in your body play a major role in the diagnosis and development of psoriasis.
Psoriasis is not contagious, that is, it does not spread by touch. However, it can spread and get triggered due to various reasons. This causes the symptoms to worsen and spread further.
The triggers vary from person to person. Some common triggers of psoriasis are common lifestyle stresses, and injury to the skin like sunburn, infections, scratches, etc. This can also include ink meaning tattoos on the skin.
Other possible triggers can be illnesses, infections from the weather, alcohol use, smoking, and allergies.
5. Treatment of Psoriasis in Scalp
While there is no known cure for psoriasis, there are more effective treatments available today than ever before.
In addition to reducing the chance of additional health disorders including psoriatic arthritis, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and depression from developing, treating psoriasis can assist with symptoms.
5.1 Consult the Doctors
The first line of defense, once you have a diagnosis of psoriasis is to see your dermatologist or doctor. They will typically consult you for skin treatments.
Since psoriasis is a comorbid disorder, you also need to get yourself checked for other diseases.
If your skin does not respond to the topical medications or skin treatments, the doctor’s office will suggest you take injections. Medication is injected directly into your scalp using a needle to get into the affected areas.
This helps to reduce the inflammation. Laser and non-laser-focused procedures are also recommended sometimes.
UV light is sometimes administered through a handheld device known as a UV comb, which can be used to target the entire scalp that is infected with psoriasis.
As hair can block the ultraviolet light from reaching the scalp, it may be beneficial to part the hair if it is thick. If the hair is very thin or has a shaved head, the doctor may suggest that the patient go outside in natural sunlight for short periods.
5.2 Basic Treatment of Psoriasis On the Scalp
You can try techniques at home to ease your symptoms like pain and itchiness. Do be careful to not accidentally trigger your psoriasis in the scalp even more.
If you’re dealing with itchiness, here are some tips to help: use a conditioner after you’ve washed your hair, cut back on hot tools for styling your hair, and use cold packs, towels, or water on itchy areas.
5.3 Treatment for Mild Psoriasis
Medicated shampoos, creams, gels, lotions, foams, oils, ointments, and soaps as well as physiotherapy procedures can help with psoriasis on the scalp.
The majority of these products can be obtained without a prescription, however, more potent formulations require a medical prescription.
FDA-approved psoriasis medication is available for over-the-counter use. A peeling agent called Salicylic acid can be applied to the skin for easier removal of the scales caused by psoriasis. This acid softens the scales and they can be removed.
Medicated shampoos, soaps, conditioners, and lotions are also available which are specifically designed to deal with psoriasis-sensitive skin.
You can use these products daily with proper guidance and direction from your physician.
5.4 Treatment for Moderate & Severe Psoriasis
Moderate scalp psoriasis and severe psoriasis in the scalp will require a higher dosage of medication which can only be bought with a prescription.
These drugs or pills will have a higher concentration of salicylic acid and even antihistamines. Antihistamine pills are prescribed specifically for allergies to reduce itching and irritation. The same is used for psoriasis on the scalp.
Shampoos with menthol and coal tar products are also prescribed for severe conditions. Many times a cream with an active agent like phenol is also suggested for use.
Severe psoriasis in the scalp can often be comorbid with other infections like yeast infection. To deal with this, you might be given antimicrobials. Other topical steroids along with vitamin D derivatives and vitamin A essences are also given for severe scalp psoriasis.
These medications need to be closely monitored by a doctor since they may have major adverse effects, such as liver damage.
It is important to note that oral vitamin derivatives are more effective than vitamin supplements available over the counter. Vitamin A and D pills alone are not effective in treating psoriasis.
If psoriasis in the scalp becomes infected, it can lead to a variety of symptoms, including crusting, reddening, flare-ups, pain, and swelling of the lymph nodes. For this issue, your doctor might recommend an antibiotic medication.
Though there is no complete cure for psoriasis, if one follows the treatment plan advised by expert specialists, severe scalp psoriasis will not last for long.
Several treatments can help ease down the symptoms considerably and also cut down the gushes of discomfort that you experience.
Valuable tips, relief methods, self-esteem-building exercises, and activities can be gained by joining a psoriasis group.
This group is usually made for and by people who have suffered or are still going through psoriasis and its treatment.
You can confide in them your experiences and difficulties as well as gain back your confidence which might have taken a hit through this support group.
The general feeling of stress and sadness that comes along this journey of psoriasis diagnosis and treatment can be made easier and less lonely via group activities in psoriasis support groups.
Psoriasis is a chronic disease that can have a wide range of effects on a person’s life, not only in terms of physical health, but also in terms of relationships, social interactions, and stress management.
Additionally, psoriasis can affect other aspects of life, such as clothing choices. For some individuals, living with psoriasis is challenging, but there are ways to manage the condition and achieve success.