Scalp psoriasis, like all types of psoriasis, is a skin disorder related to problems with the immune system. An estimated 50 percent of those with psoriasis develop it on the scalp.
The condition occurs when a faulty immune system triggers skin cells to grow too rapidly. The cells build up on the surface of the scalp causing thick, silvery patches or plaques to form. Scalp psoriasis may be limited to a small single lesion or it may cover the entire scalp, extending to the forehead or back of the neck.
Flare-ups of scalp psoriasis range from mild to severe and have a variety of triggers such as stress, certain medications and cold, dry air. In addition to scalp patches, symptoms include dryness, which can lead to skin cracks and bleeding; itching; a burning sensation; temporary hair loss and dandruff-like flaking.
Scalp psoriasis can be difficult to treat, but your dermatologist can provide many helpful treatment options. Topical medications can be applied directly to the scalp and medicated shampoos containing tar or salicylic acid may also be helpful.
Depending on the severity of your scalp psoriasis, your dermatologist may suggest other treatment options including injecting individual scalp lesions with steroids, ultraviolet light treatments, scale softeners, and biologic drugs given by injection or intravenously.
During scalp psoriasis flare-ups, try not to scratch, since this can cause symptoms to worsen. Rub the scalp gently when shampooing and only remove scales that are loose – don’t pick. Stubborn scalp plaques can be treated with scale softeners and later removed to allow medications to reach the scalp.
With professional treatment, most scalp psoriasis clears fairly quickly. Meanwhile, talk with your dermatologist about ways to relieve the itch. Most of all, try to avoid stress and allow time for scalp psoriasis treatments to work.