Psoriasis is a skin condition that affects more than 4.5 million people in the US. Psoriasis is derived from the Greek word 'psora', which means itch. Though the condition is not contagious or dangerous, it can be stubborn and difficult to treat. Scalp psoriasis can result in thick scale build up and redness. It can vary from mild to severe and may need treatment such as steroids and biologics. This informative guide to scalp psoriasis helps you understand the skin condition and various treatment options.
A person may suffer from scalp psoriasis in isolation or with other forms of psoriasis. Psoriasis is a result of a faulty immune system whereby skin cells grow rapidly and build up on the skin's surface. It can manifest as red flaky patches that cause acute itching. Some patients experience soreness and a felling of tightness on the head. Though this condition can appear anywhere on the body, scalp psoriasis is a more common affliction.
Typically, psoriasis on the scalp tends to make an appearance on the back of the head or in multiple patches all over the scalp. Many a time the scales and redness extend beyond the scalp line. In the initial stages, it may be confused with dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis. Scalp psoriasis often leads to temporary hair thinning.
This skin condition is known to run in families and is attributed to immune-system malfunction. Other causes for scalp psoriasis are steroids and other medications, infection or illness and stress. Treating scalp psoriasis can be more difficult because of the hair, which makes topical application difficult. There is no magic cure for scalp psoriasis, but some medications and treatment can offer relief.
Psoriasis scalp treatment
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- Treatment for mild scalp psoriasis consists of tar-based shampoos. Coal tar products such as shampoos, soaps, creams, gels and ointments are known to be effective in treating psoriasis. Coal tar is available in varying concentrations. But these preparations tend to be messy and smelly. LCD or Liquor carbonis detergents are milder versions. A tar shampoo is massaged into the scalp and left for a few minutes for best absorption. It is then rinsed off. In severe cases of scalp psoriasis, tar products are massaged onto the scalp and left overnight. It may take several weeks for the effects to be seen.
- Scalp treatment for psoriasis must be continued till you notice considerable reduction in the condition. This may take a couple of months. Severe cases of scalp psoriasis may benefit from administration of UVB light therapy. But hair can block UV light from reaching the scalp. UV combs are used for better result. Sometimes patients may need to cut their hair to control the condition easily.
- Systemic drugs are often prescribed by doctors to treat psoriasis internally. In 2003, the US FDA approved the used of biological therapy for psoriasis. Biologics are made from living sources and used to treat conditions like psoriasis. These drugs must be injected into the body and target specific areas of immune response. It works through a unique immunosuppressive mechanism.
- Topical steroids in the form of solutions, gels, creams and lotions are used to treat scalp psoriasis. Such medications are recommended for about a couple of weeks and must not be abruptly stopped for fear of causing a rebound of symptoms. Sometimes scalp lesions are injected with steroid medications to relieve mild cases of scalp psoriasis.
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