Understanding Scalp Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disorder of the skin. It occurs when the wrong messages are sent to the skin cells telling them to multiply too quickly. Skin cells grow deep in the skin and slowly rise to the surface. But for people with psoriasis, the process happens too quickly. The cells stack up on top of each other causing patches of thick scales to appear on the skin.

What is Scalp Psoriasis?

Scalp psoriasis causes silvery-white scales to form on the scalp. Other scalp symptoms include itchiness, redness, swelling and flaking. In severe cases, large patches of thickened skin form on the scalp. This type can be challenging to treat because the hair gets in the way. It can also go beyond the hairline and affect the forehead. In severe cases, it can cause hair loss.

Treatment Options

There are several treatment options to keep it under control. For mild scalp psoriasis, the first line of defense is usually over-the-counter medicated shampoos. These shampoos contain either coal tar or salicylic acid. They help soften and loosen the scales making them easier to remove. After gently washing the hair, the softened scales can be carefully removed with a fine-tooth comb. Care must be taken to avoid irritating the scalp.

There are also topical treatments to apply to the scalp. Some of these contain steroids and require a prescription from the doctor. They're formulated to slow down cell growth and soften scales. Another option is to inject steroids directly into the affected areas.

For severe scalp psoriasis, oral medications may be necessary. Some of those medications contain steroids. Because of serious side effects, the patients must be closely monitored. There are also newer FDA-approved medications called biologics. These are given by injection and have shown great success.

Another option is phototherapy. Ultraviolet light is delivered to the scalp using a device called a UV comb. It can be used all over the scalp. There is also laser treatment that uses a high-intensity light to focus on only one area of the scalp. It leaves the healthy skin around it intact.

How to Avoid Outbreaks

It is unknown what causes psoriasis, but scientists believe the immune system is involved. Stress is known to affect the immune system, so exercise and meditation are recommended to manage stress. Any type of illness that affects the immune can also cause an outbreak. Strep throat has been known to irritate psoriasis. It is, therefore, crucial to stay as healthy as possible.

It is also important to avoid itching the scalp as much as possible. It irritates psoriasis and can trigger a severe outbreak. It can be difficult because itchy scalp is severe in some cases.

There are other possible triggers that have been reported. These include allergies, diet and weather. Psoriasis is usually better in summer and worse in winter. Those triggers have not been scientifically proven.

Even though there is no cure for scalp psoriasis, it can be controlled. There are several treatment options available. Taking great strides to stay healthy is a step in the right direction.