The causes of scalp psoriasis and ways to treat them


Learn about the causes of scalp psoriasis and how to keep it under control with our expert tips and advice.

1. What causes scalp psoriasis?
2. Other causes
3. Symptoms of scalp psoriasis
4. Treatment for scalp psoriasis
5. Tips for managing scalp psoriasis

Chronic skin conditions like psoriasis can pose a lot of challenges but with the right treatment, you can learn to coexist with the condition. Psoriasis causes a build-up of skin cells in the different parts of the body, and when it affects the scalp, the condition is called scalp psoriasis.

This condition is more common than you think, where you notice raised, scaly, and reddish patches appear across the scalp. Typically, it starts as a single patch and goes on to affect the entire scalp. We don’t want to scare you, but it can also spread to the back of your neck, behind or inside your ears, or your forehead. Although this type of psoriasis is more common in adults, it can also affect children.

What causes scalp psoriasis?

Scientists may or may not have an accurate answer to the scalp psoriasis causes, but the improper functioning of the immune system is often considered to be a triggering factor. In some cases, the immune system sends wrong signals to the body to fight an infection (even if there’s nothing to worry). This causes the body to release inflammatory chemicals as a response to those signals. Usually, the formation of new cells takes about a few weeks. But in psoriasis, these skin cells are formed within days, making it difficult for the body to shed the excess skin cells. Result? Scalp buildup and scaly patches. Along with your immune system, your genetics and lifestyle can also trigger this condition. If you want to know more about what causes scalp psoriasis, these are the factors to look at:

  • Family history

    If either of your parents has scalp psoriasis, it increases the risk of inheriting the condition. The risk increases manifold if both the parents have this condition.
  • Stress

    High-stress levels can also trigger an inflammatory immune response and  cause scalp psoriasis.
  • Obesity

    Excess weight is also one of the reasons for scalp psoriasis. People who are overweight have more skin creases and folds where rashes from inverse psoriasis can occur.
  • Smoking

    Wondering what causes scalp psoriasis to flare up? The answer is smoking, and it’s known to worsen the symptoms in those who have it.
  • Viral and bacterial infections

    People who are prone to recurring infections and have a weak immune system are also vulnerable to scalp psoriasis.

Other causes

Those with scalp psoriasis can experience flare-ups due to the following factors:

• Skin injuries
• Some medications such as lithium, antimalarial medicines, or beta-blockers
• Lack of vitamin D
• Certain infections, like strep throat or skin infections

Symptoms of scalp psoriasis

Identifying the signs and symptoms of scalp psoriasis will help you seek timely treatment. If the condition is mild, the only symptoms visible are small, scaly patches of skin.

The symptoms of severe scalp psoriasis include:

• Itchiness
• Dry, flaky skin, and red bumps
• A burning sensation on the scalp
• Temporary *hair loss in affected areas

If you’re worried about losing your precious locks, remember scalp psoriasis alone does not cause hair loss. It occurs when you scratch the patches of skin on the scalp, which can also cause bleeding and infection.

Treatment for scalp psoriasis

There is no complete cure for scalp psoriasis, but here are some treatments that can help keep the condition under control:

Topical medications: Topical treatments include using a cream or shampoo that contains coal tar, salicylic acid, and clobetasol propionate.
Systemic medications: For moderate to severe scalp psoriasis, systemic medications such as methotrexate or oral retinoids are prescribed by the doctor if the topical treatments don’t work.
Steroid-based treatments: Steroids are used to bring scalp psoriasis under control by decreasing inflammation and itching.
Light therapy: Light therapy involves exposing the scalp to ultraviolet light at regular intervals. This form of treatment requires a doctor’s supervision to avoid overexposure or burns.

Tips for managing scalp psoriasis

To help you manage this condition better, you must follow these tips:

• Avoid scratching your scalp even if you feel the need to itch. This can cause bleeding or infection.
• Treat your scalp gently when you wash or comb your hair to prevent hair breakage.
• Keep your scalp moisturised to keep dryness at bay, and reduce the urge to scratch your scalp.
• If you know what triggers scalp psoriasis, make a conscious effort to avoid these factors.

Though scalp psoriasis is a chronic condition and can be quite bothersome, you can bring it under control with these tips and treatment methods.

*All references on this page refers to hair fall or hair loss due to breakage.