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What Causes Scalp Psoriasis?

Psoriasis remains the most common immune-mediated disorder in the country, and it comes in many different forms. While it mainly affects the skin, psoriasis is much more than a cosmetic disease. It can have an effect on every aspect of a person’s life and general livelihood. Let’s take a closer look at scalp psoriasis and see what exactly causes it.

Understanding Psoriasis

So, what is psoriasis? Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition characterized by the rapid speed up of your skin’s natural cell cycle. This materializes in the form of scaly, red patches that are often itchy and painful. Skin may become dry, crack, and bleed, and psoriasis can also cause nails to become pitted or ridged. Some forms of psoriasis can also result in psoriatic arthritis.

Symptoms for psoriasis can come and go, and the severity of symptoms can vary. While some may have minor spots of scaling, others may have major breakouts covering large areas of the body. Although psoriasis can appear anywhere on your skin, it is more common on the elbows, knees, and scalp. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, at least 50 percent of people with psoriasis will experience flare-ups on their scalp.

Symptoms of Scalp Psoriasis

Scalp psoriasis symptoms appear in both mild and severe forms. Mild scalp psoriasis is characterized by small, scaly patches of skin around the scalp. Mild scalp psoriasis is easy to mistake for dandruff or dermatitis. Many who have it see flaking, a result of dry skin. Unlike dandruff, scalp psoriasis has a noticeable silver shine and dry scaling throughout the scalp. Severe scalp psoriasis may appear as thick, crusted patches that cover the entire scalp and may extend to the forehead, the back of the neck, and behind the ears.

Other common symptoms of scalp psoriasis include:

  • A generally dry scalp
  • Itchiness in the scalp that can be mild or so intense that it interferes with sleep
  • Bleeding, which can occur from the dry, cracked skin or from scratching too much
  • General soreness or burning sensation in the scalp

Although scalp psoriasis is in itself not known to cause hair loss, consistent scratching or picking at patches can cause hair loss. Thankfully, this hair loss is temporary as hair loss usually regrows once the scalp psoriasis has cleared and healed.

What Causes Scalp Psoriasis?

Your immune system is naturally designed to protect your body and organs by eliminating harmful bacteria, viruses, and other potential threats to your health. With autoimmune disorders like psoriasis, the immune system mistakenly sees healthy tissue as a threat and attacks it. In the case of psoriasis, the immune system attacks healthy skin cells while signaling for the increased production of new skin cells. This results in an ongoing cycle of new skin cells moving to the topmost layer of skin in mere days rather than weeks. As skin cells build up, they form into the thick, scaly patches.

The exact root that causes this immune system malfunction is still not known, but genetics is known to be a contributing factor. If one parent has psoriasis, their child has about a 10 percent chance of also having the disease. If both parents have psoriasis, that risk jumps to about 50 percent. However, there’s still no true way to predict if you will get the disease, nor its severity or whether it will affect the scalp.

We do know that psoriasis is not contagious. It is not something that you can spread to others or that you can catch from others.

Scalp Psoriasis Triggers

We also know that scalp psoriasis, and other forms of psoriasis, often come in waves or cycles noted by sudden flare-ups that last a few months or weeks before subsiding or going into remission. These flare-ups are often caused by specific triggers, though your triggers may differ from others. Some commonly known triggers for scalp psoriasis   include:

  • Injury to the scalp, including burns, cuts, or bruises
  • Stress, which may also exacerbate existing symptoms
  • Certain medications

Thankfully, there are numerous treatments, both topical and pharmaceutical, that can help to reduce the itching, dryness, and general discomfort of scalp psoriasis. Consult your doctor if you believe you might have scalp psoriasis and want to seek treatment.