Dealing with an itchy scalp can be frustrating. Here are 11 potential reasons your scalp is itchy and what you can do about it
Here are 11 potential reasons your scalp is itchy and what you can do about it.
10 causes of itchy scalp
- Dandruff: Dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis mainly occurs in response to yeast overgrowth, resulting in itching and dry, flaky scalp. For mild dandruff, use shampoos containing zinc and selenium. If your dandruff is more severe, your doctor may prescribe topical cortisone and antifungal shampoo.
- Ringworm: Commonly known as ringworm, tinea capitis is a fungal infection that affects the scalp and can result in patches of hair loss. If the infection is superficial, over-the-counter antifungal medications may help. Because these infections penetrate deep into hair follicles, oral antifungal medications may be prescribed. Examples of medications include:
- Lice: Lice isn’t necessarily caused just by poor hygiene. You can get it from coming into contact with someone who has lice. Shampoos that contain permethrin or pyrethrin can treat head lice.
- Scabies: Scabies is caused by mites that burrow into your scalp, resulting in intense itching that can keep you up at night. Scabies require treatment from a dermatologist, who can prescribe topical creams containing permethrin or crotamiton and sulfur ointments.
- Psoriasis: Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes reddish and scaly patches on the skin or scalp. While the exact cause of this disease is unknown, family history of psoriasis is a risk factor. Physicians recommend medicated shampoos that contain salicylic acid or coal tar to treat scalp psoriasis. Topical cortisone may be prescribed if such shampoos are ineffective.
- Allergic reactions: Allergic reactions to hair care products and hair dyes can cause your scalp to become itchy and inflamed. If you develop hives after using a hair care product, discontinue use. Chronic hives may need additional treatment such as antihistamines. Similarly, para-phenylenediamine is an ingredient found in hair dye that can cause an allergic reaction. You should discontinue use if it is causing your itchy scalp.
- Atopic dermatitis: Atopic dermatitis can cause scalp redness, burning, and itching. Treatment may include topical steroids combined with salicylic acid, oral antibiotics, and medicated shampoos.
- Nerve problems: If you experience persistent itching without any signs of rash or other skin disorders, then this could be a sign of a nerve problem. Nerve damage (neuropathy) can occur due to underlying medical conditions such as diabetes or shingles.
- Migraine: Migraines can lead to cutaneous allodynia, which is a condition in which the scalp feels prickly during a migraine episode. Rizatriptan has shown positive results in treating cutaneous allodynia.
- Skin cancer: Symptoms of basal cell carcinomas (BCC) include raised reddish patches of skin that may crust or itch but are usually not painful. BCC or other types of skin cancer can potentially irritate fine nerve endings in the skin, causing an itching sensation. Warning signs may include:
- New skin growth or lesion
- Change in the appearance of a mole
- Sore that continually crusts over but doesn’t heal
- Rough or scaly skin patch
- Pink, pearly bump that bleeds easily
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Medically Reviewed on 12/15/2021
Image Source: iStock Images
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