Psoriasis can be a frustrating skin condition to say the least. If you have psoriasis of the scalp, or notice dryness and irritation on your scalp, knowing how to treat your specific type of psoriasis is important for relieving symptoms and may even help you avoid hair loss.
Psoriasis is an often persistent and irritating skin condition that affects a large number of people. While the cause of psoriasis is not fully understood, doctors believe it may have something to do with an abnormality in the body’s immune response. White blood cells, responsible for warding off bacteria and infection, flock to the blood vessels within the skin where they cause an extreme overproduction of skin cells. Skin grows too fast for it to naturally shed with time, so it builds up and can cause a number of symptoms. For some people, psoriasis symptoms are so mild they never get diagnosed with a skin condition. For most people though, psoriasis shows up and causes itchiness and visible symptoms. Psoriasis is characterized by red and inflamed, irritated and itchy skin that forms in patches. For about 80% of people with psoriasis, their condition develops plaques. Plaque psoriasis is a more severe condition in which the affected skin forms growths of silvery, flaky skin. These patches are incredibly itchy and can even impact your self-esteem. Regardless of whether plaques occur, psoriasis is often very uncomfortable and can be frustrating and unsightly. Winter dryness, especially in New England and other northern climates, can make psoriasis symptoms even worse.
When psoriasis occurs on the scalp, the symptoms are not that different than traditional psoriasis. Redness, itching, burning and flaking skin are all common with scalp psoriasis. About half of the people with psoriasis have it on their scalp, and of these people, some have it on other parts of their body as well. Sometimes, scalp psoriasis is mistaken for dandruff. Dandruff is characterized by dryness of the scalp and flaking. Dandruff, however, is fairly mild when compared to psoriasis. A visual exam of the scalp will quickly determine whether psoriasis or dandruff is present. One unique, concerning side effect of scalp psoriasis is hair loss. While psoriasis itself does not cause hair to fall out, repeatedly scratching at the affected skin can loosen and dislodge hair from the scalp. When you consider that some people experience psoriasis of most of their scalp, or even in concentrated areas, the hair loss implications are immense. Thankfully, there are a variety of treatments for your psoriasis that can keep your symptoms at bay, and your hair where it belongs.
Once your doctor has determined that you have psoriasis, they will present you the best treatment options given the severity of your condition. Topical ointments and specially formulated shampoos are the first line of defense against psoriasis of the scalp. Psoriasis treatment in general, and scalp psoriasis treatment specifically have a specific regimen. Usually, the first thing a dermatologist treats are the plaques themselves. Treatment targeting the plaques aim to soften and remove scaly skin. Salicylic acid shampoos and other topical ointments can be applied to achieve this effect. Once the plaques are under control, the underlying cause can be treated more effectively. Depending on the severity of your psoriasis, topical, oral or injected medications may be prescribed. Topical ointments should be applied directly to the scalp, but you should take caution not to use them more than the recommended amount. Such treatments can weaken hair if misused, leading to temporary hair loss. For stronger cases of psoriasis, oral or injectable medication like methotrexate or retinoids may be prescribed. These work to soften the body’s intense immune response, slowing the production of skin cells.
Psoriasis of the scalp can cause even more unsightly side effects than psoriasis on other parts of the body. If you want to avoid hair loss and irritation, reach out to a doctor you can trust at Northeast Dermatology Associates.
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