Scalp psoriasis is a very common skin condition that causes red, raised, and sometimes scaly patches of skin on the head. It may be small patches, one entire patch, or spread to nearby areas such as the neck, ears, or forehead. It is not a serious or contagious skin condition and is one of many different types of psoriasis. There isn’t a known cause or cure, but there are treatment options available.
Symptoms of Scalp Psoriasis
The signs and symptoms of scalp psoriasis can range from slight and hardly noticeable to moderate or severe. Some of the most common symptoms of scalp psoriasis include silver-white scales, flaking that looks like dandruff, reddish plaques, dry scalp, itchy scalp, soreness or burning sensation in the scalp, or hair loss. Scalp psoriasis on its own doesn’t cause hair loss, but this can occur from scratching the head often, removing scales forcefully, stress, and some of the associated treatments. Because scalp psoriasis is not the cause of the hair loss, it usually grows back.
Topical Treatments for Scalp Psoriasis
The first type of treatments, and usually the very first your doctor will recommend, is a topical treatment. This includes medicated shampoo, gels, oils, creams, soaps, and ointments. Some topical treatments for scalp psoriasis are sold over-the-counter while others are stronger and therefore require a prescription from your doctor or dermatologist. The two main over-the-counter medications recommended for scalp psoriasis that are approved by the FDA are salicylic acid and coal tar. Prescription medications include anathralin, antimicrobials, calcipotriene, topical steroids, and tazarotene. Your topical treatment will need to be applied to the skin of the scalp and not the hair. If you have not experienced hair loss and have very thick hair, you may need to cut or shave that section of hair in order to apply the treatment properly.
Treatment for Severe Scalp Psoriasis
In some cases, you may be diagnosed with a severe case of scalp psoriasis in which you need stronger prescription medications. The medication might be administered either orally, by injection, or infusion. Oral medications for severe scalp psoriasis include corticosteroids, methotrexate, oral vitamin A derivative, or an oral vitamin D derivative. These medications require constant monitoring since they have serious side effects like liver damage. There is also a line of biologics approved by the FDA for scalp psoriasis. Biologics include Amevive, Raptiva, Enbrel, or Remicade. Scalp psoriasis can’t be cured but with proper treatment, you can alleviate many of the symptoms and side effects.