Skin problems are more than just problems with the way you look. It is a problem with the way you feel, how comfortable you are in your own skin, and it often affects your self-esteem. You second guess how you look. You wonder what the people around you are thinking. You are uncomfortable with just being who you are. Psoriasis is more than just red itchy skin. When you have to deal with it, it can be a life changer. So what is Psoriasis? What is scalp psoriasis? How are they different? What are your options for treatment? Those are all the questions we are going to ask and lead you through.
What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is red, scaly patches of skin. They are itchy and painful. Your skin may have patches that have a white scaly looking area. They are bumpy. Psoriasis is itchy but not unbearable like eczema is. The lower back, elbows, and knees are the most likely area to be affected, but these patches can appear anywhere.
The way that psoriasis works are that your body builds up skin tissues on top of skin tissues that are already there. Instead of simply, discarding dry flaky skin, your body builds the new tissues and pushes it up. Besides being uncomfortable, it can open you up to secondary infections. This is especially true if you find yourself scratching a lot.
What is Scalp Psoriasis?
Scalp Psoriasis is similar in that it is raised patches of skin that grow on your scalp. They are extra skin tissue that is scaly and itchy. Scalp Psoriasis can appear to be dandruff, especially to someone who isn’t familiar with it. It can take over the whole scalp. It can creep down the neck. It can appear around the ears or on the forehead. Your scalp may seem silvery or extremely flaky.
How are they different?
There isn’t a lot of differences. The main difference is that scalp psoriasis can make your hair fall out or even prevent it from growing. That means that you could have bald spots or a receding hairline. It doesn’t cause hair loss in other areas but that’s because hair follicles aren’t usually as thick in the elbows or other regions where Psoriasis is common.
Infections and Psoriasis
Psoriasis alone isn’t likely to cause infections. However, it does put you at risk for other infections. Skin and blood infections are common because of the broken skin. Your fingernails have bacteria under them. This bacteria can be transferred when you scratch or break open a scab. You need to be sure to wash your hands anytime that you scratch. Keep your nails short. Try not to scratch. Clean under your fingernails every time that you wash your hands.
What causes scalp psoriasis?
No one is positive of the cause. There are many different factors to consider. Some things in your life may lead you to be more likely to suffer from it. Obesity plays a role in how your body functions. It affects the way your body handles inflammation. In fact, you may be more likely to get inflammation like conditions, including scalp psoriasis.
Your diet may also put you at a higher risk. Studies show that it might flare up if you eat something that you are allergic too. You may not even know that you are allergic to the food until you have a flare-up. Flare-ups due to allergies such as gluten or wheat could take several days to appear. They aren’t always easy to spot. The flare-up could even depend on the amount that you consume. It does get confusing when you are trying to find your trigger.
Any infection that you get can potentially lower your immune system. Strep throat, for instance, can cause you to be susceptible to getting scalp psoriasis. Cuts, burns, and abrasions can also make you more susceptible to having a flare up, especially if you have experienced one in the past. Medications can also give you flare-ups. You can sometimes check with your pharmacist and they can tell you if it is a side effect of your medication. Your pharmacist has access to a wealth of information, never be afraid to ask them questions.
What are the treatment options?
Before you go to your doctor to discuss treatment options, there are two important things that you should do on your own. First, you need to know the patterns and causes that affect your life. Try keeping a journal of everything you do before, after, and during a flare-up. Note what you eat, what you encounter, and even your stress levels. Then you will have a better idea of what is causing you to have flare-ups.
Second, you need to know what makes it better for you. Some of the things you could try are: modifying your diet, changing shampoos and conditioners, and switching brands of laundry soap. Space them a few days to a week apart. Then write down your reaction to them. You would want to note how your skin feels, where you flare-ups are, and how fast after the trigger that you begin showing signs of a flare-up. The reason you want to do this is so that when you go to talk to your doctor, you have real information to share. It may affect how the doctor wants to proceed with treatment plans.
You can get over the counter medicated shampoos to help. You want to pay attention to the ingredients. You should not use any medicated shampoos for more than four weeks. They are only meant for adults and should not be used for scalp psoriasis in children. There are a few ingredients that are known to help like:
- salicylic acid which helps to soften the scales of the scalp psoriasis which helps it to shed. The problem is this can also cause your hair to weaken and could lead to worsening baldness.
- 2-10% coal tar which can help to slow growth, relieve itching, and soothe the skin. The smell is strong and there are no long-term studies to determine safety.
- Clobetasol propionate can bring symptoms under control and reduce the duration of the flare-up.
Topical creams can bring relief as well. They can reduce scaling, promote new skin growth, relieve irritation, and stop the itching. Most are safe to use on children, but you should check with your doctor before using any over the counter medication on your child. There are also several medicated prescription creams that your doctor can give you. They will usually specify how long to use them for and how often to apply them. Most of them have similar ingredients as the shampoos but in different concentrations.
There are systematic medications that you can get from your doctor. Basically, these are a pill or a liquid that you would take by mouth. These would go through your entire system and treat your scalp psoriasis that way. This can be especially helpful if you suffer from psoriasis on other parts of your body as well. They don’t always relieve the itching. They can also take several days to see any results.
Biologic Drugs are fairly new. Studies show that they are promising. The way that they work is fairly simple but they do sound futuristic. So the way that it works is this: you take the drug. There are three that are widely available. The drug then targets the biological cells that cause scalp psoriasis and psoriasis throughout the body. They are not meant for long term use, but they can help with flare-ups. The downside of this can be pretty severe. The studies show that they do increase suicidal thoughts and can cause erratic behavior. They are not recommended if you suffer from depression or have suicidal tendencies.
Steroid Creams are another way to treat scalp psoriasis. You will need to get a prescription from your doctor. You may get special instructions on how and when to use it.
UVB light on your scalp can help. It must be done under a doctor’s supervision to prevent burns or overexposure.
There are two home remedies that you could try. These are known to help, but remember not everything will help everyone.
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) can burn if you apply it directly. It does help to reduce symptoms and reduce the duration of flare-ups. The best thing to do to avoid irritation is to mix it with equal parts of water. Then you can rinse your hair in it. The best part is that it will leave your hair shiny and healthy.
Tea tree oil has a strong smell and can be poisonous if swallowed. However, it has many health benefits and it can promote new skin growth while helping to remove dead skin and scaly patches.
It is our hope that our research has helped you to learn. The best thing you can do with any condition is to learn all you can. Then you can find the best treatment option for your circumstance.