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What Does Scalp Psoriasis Look Like?

Psoriasis, one of the most common immune-mediated disorders in the United States, comes in a wide range of forms. Understanding what psoriasis looks like not only helps your treatment, but also gives you peace of mind. It helps to put a name to it. Scalp psoriasis occurs in about half of those with psoriasis, but it’s not always easy to spot. Here is some information to help you better understand what scalp psoriasis looks like.

Understanding Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a common skin condition that is noted by a sudden speed up in your skin cells’ natural cycle. The immediate result of this is the appearance of dry, scaly patches or lesions of skin known as plaques. These plaques are often itchy and inflamed, and the dryness can result in cracking and bleeding.

The severity of these plaques can vary from case to case. Some may experience mild dandruff-like spotting, while others may experience full-blown breakouts covering large areas of the body. Plaques can appear just about anywhere on the skin, but they are most particular to the elbows, knees, and the scalp. In about 50 percent of cases, people with psoriasis will experience at least one flare up on the scalp.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Scalp Psoriasis

Simply put, the symptoms of scalp psoriasis are what you’d expect out of any form of psoriasis. But what does psoriasis scalp psoriasis look like? The main symptoms to look out for include:

  • Reddish patches on your scalp – Some of these patches can look thick and inflamed, while others may be small and barely noticeable. More severe forms can extend to your forehead, the back of your neck, and around your ears.
  • Dry scalp – Your scalp can experience intense dryness that could result in cracking and bleeding.
  • Itching – One of the most common symptoms, itchiness can vary in intensity. It can become so severe that you may be unable to sleep or perform everyday activities.
  • Bleeding – Thanks to the itching and dryness, your scalp may bleed from the excessive scratching.
  • General soreness or burning.

While scalp psoriasis is not known to directly cause hair loss, scratching your scalp and picking at dry patches can potentially result in temporary hair loss. However, your hair should grow back naturally as your psoriasis clears up and your scalp heals.

Other Conditions Mistaken for Scalp Psoriasis

One of the biggest difficulties with scalp psoriasis is that it’s often easy to mistake for other conditions. The most prominent is dandruff. Scalp psoriasis often comes with flaking and an itchy scalp, both of which are common symptoms of dandruff. The main difference between dandruff and scalp psoriasis is that the latter causes a distinct silver shine along with noticeable dry scales on the scalp.

Scalp psoriasis may also be mistaken for seborrheic dermatitis. This skin condition is characterized by red skin covered with scales that appear white or yellow. It may also be itchy and have skin flakes that stick to the hair shaft. However, seborrheic dermatitis generally results in scales that appear greasy or even moist.

Ringworm, which is actually a fungal infection, not a parasite, can also cause a red, crusty rash to form on the scalp. Unlike scalp psoriasis, this rash usually forms in the shape of a ring.

Diagnosing Scalp Psoriasis

Often, the best way to know if you have scalp psoriasis is to get a professional diagnosis from your doctor. Currently, there is no singular blood test or tool for diagnosing scalp psoriasis. Instead, diagnosis often involves a thorough physical examination of the affected area and questions about your medical history.

Your doctor may also take a small sample of the affected skin, known as a biopsy, which can then be examined under a microscope to eliminate potential similar disorders. For example, psoriasis samples generally look thicker and more inflamed under microscope compared to eczema and other disorders.

Identifying and understanding what causes scalp psoriasis ultimately leads into treatment options, and the wide range of treatments, from topical ointments to systemic medication, ensures that you can find something that will work for you. Consult your doctor if you believe you have scalp psoriasis.