Scalp Psoriasis (Psoriasis of the Scalp)

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What is scalp psoriasis?

Psoriasis is an inflammatory disease of the skin estimated to affect about 2.2% of the adult population. Psoriasis is influenced by the genes that are inherited from parents. The genes affected seem to be involved with control of the immune system. Psoriasis appears as red scaling papules the combine into plaques that are classically present on the elbows and knees but can affect any part of the skin. The scalp is also characteristically affected in many patients with psoriasis. Like psoriasis anywhere, scalp plaques produce excess scale and can itch. Severe disease can cause a loss of scalp hair, which usually will return if the disease can be controlled.

What is the cause of scalp psoriasis?

The belief that "emotional stress" is a cause of psoriasis is difficult to support experimentally. There is no question, however, that psoriasis of the scalp is an extremely stressful experience.

What are scalp psoriasis symptoms and signs?

As mentioned above, psoriasis appears as a small bump, a papule, surmounted by scale. When these papules combine, a plaque is formed that is covered by excessive layers of horny skin that is perceived as a silvery scale. This scale is shed and appears as dandruff. The scale and shedding can be quite profuse and unsightly. Scratching these plaques, either because of itching or because of the impulse to remove it, is a very poor idea because of what is called the Koebner phenomenon (also known as the Koebner response or isomorphic response). This is a peculiar predisposition of psoriasis to develop in areas of trauma. Scratching off the scale will only make things worse. Occasionally seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp can be confused with psoriasis since both can produce excess scale and can itch.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/16/2013

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Scalp Psoriasis - Symptoms Question: Describe your symptoms of scalp psoriasis.
Scalp Psoriasis - Topical Treatments Question: What topical treatments have you used for scalp psoriasis?
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Scalp Psoriasis - Medications Question: If you have severe scalp psoriasis, which prescription medications have you tried?
Get the facts about PUVA treatment for psoriasis.

Psoriasis PUVA Treatment Can Increase Melanoma Risk

The treatment of psoriasis depends on its severity and location. Treatments range from local (cortisone cream application, emollients, coal tar, anthralin preparations, and sun exposure) to systemic (internal medications, including methotrexateand cyclosporine).

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