Scalp psoriasis is a type of psoriasis and can be a very distressing condition.
Psoriasis is a skin condition that alters the life cycle of cells in the skin. It leads to the rapid accumulation of cells on the skin’s surface, resulting in the development of silvery, thick scales and red, itchy, dry patches that can be occasionally painful.
Nearly half the number of patients affected by psoriasis have scalp psoriasis. Scalp psoriasis causes flaking and it can either result in dandruff-like, fine flakes or formation of plaques with sticky, thick scales. The condition can spread to the nearby areas such as the forehead, the backs of the ears as well as the face.
Symptoms of Scalp psoriasis
Some of the signs and symptoms of scalp psoriasis are as follows:
- It can appear in the form of itchy, reddened regions on the scalp that are often covered with silver-white scales. Affected individuals who scratch their scalp, may notice the deposition of such scales either on their shoulder on the scalp hair itself.
- The severity level of scalp psoriasis can range from mild to severe. Mild form of scalp psoriasis can cause slight development of fine scales. The severe forms of the condition can result in formation of thick, caked plaques that affect the entire scalp.
- Scalp psoriasis may occasionally extend beyond the hairline and affect areas such as the back of the neck, the face, the back of the ears, the forehead, etc.
- Affected individuals may find it difficult to wear dark colored clothing as it makes the flakes more prominent in appearance. The shedding of flakes from the scalp can also result in depression, emotional disturbances and embarrassment among the patients.
- It may have a similar appearance to other skin diseases such as seborrheic dermatitis. However, on fine observation one may notice that seborrheic dermatitis seems greasy and yellowish, while scalp psoriasis produces powdery flakes with silvery gloss.
- Even though a lot of scalp psoriasis patients are concerned about hair loss, the condition does not result in loss of scalp hair. On rare occasions, excessive and chronic scratching can result in hair loss,
Causes of Scalp psoriasis
The causes of scalp psoriasis are not known.
It is thought that individuals who have a genetic predisposition to the skin disorder can become more vulnerable to it, due to malfunction of the immune system. The immune system is composed of T-cells that protect the body from infections. However, in scalp psoriasis patients, such T-cells mistake the healthy skin cells to be rogue cells and attack them.
The overactive T-cells constantly fight the skin cells and kill them. Concurrently, it also causes increased production of red blood cells, white blood cells and other healthy cells for increased fighting capability, leading to excessive deposition of such cells on the skin’s surface. These actions of the T-cells are done in a rapid and quick manner, which prevents the dead cells present on the surface of the skin from falling off. Such reactions that cause overproduction and increased accumulation of cells, is what causes the development of scaly patches that are indicative of scalp psoriasis. The reasons for such dysfunction of the T-cells are not understood.
Some of the factors that increase the risk to developing scalp psoriasis are mentioned below:
- Viral and other Infections as well injuries can result in a compromised immune system, which increases the risk.
- Increased stress can impair the immune system as well
- Extreme cold weather
- Smoking and alcoholism. They can not only increase the risk to scalp psoriasis, but also affect the severity levels.
- A family history of the condition
- Side effects of certain drugs such as lithium, beta blockers, etc., that are consumed to treat other diseases.
- Excessive body weight or obesity
Treatment of Scalp psoriasis
The medications that are used to treat scalp psoriasis have similar ingredients as those drugs which are used to treat other forms of body psoriasis. However, instead of using ointments and creams, liquids such as shampoos, foams, oils, etc. are prescribed for treating scalp psoriasis.
Some of the medications that may be recommended by a doctor to reduce the buildup of cells associated with scalp psoriasis include:
- Itching is a common problem with scalp psoriasis. In such cases, shampoos with menthol or tar shampoos may be used to alleviate the itching. In addition, one may also use prescription oral antihistamines and topical corticosteroids to ease the itching.
- The doctor may also prescribe the use of some systemic drugs and biologics to treat scalp psoriasis
The affected areas of the scalp are exposed to limited amounts of either natural sunlight or artificial ultraviolet B or ultraviolet A light. This may be done alone or along with the drugs.
Controlled exposure to UV rays of sunlight or artificial UV rays can result in the death of the overactive T-cells. This can result in reduction of inflammation and scaling. Some forms of laser therapy include UVB phototherapy, Goeckerman therapy, Narrowband UVB therapy, Excimer Laser, PUVA, Combination light therapy with retinoids and Pulsed dye laser.
Scalp psoriasis pictures