While dandruff might be annoying and/or embarrassing, it does not compare to the unpleasantness of scalp psoriasis. With the itching, burning, and redness, it sometimes can be unbearable. Here are some of the symptoms:
Scalp psoriasis often appears with raised, red patches that have silver and/or white scales. These painful eruptions are often itchy, and resisting the urge to scratch can be difficult. With intense scratching, it is possible that the skin can become inflamed and even more itchy. Bleeding is also possible with chronic scratching.
This symptom is not present in all cases, but can be one of the most worrying. All scalp hair has a certain cyclical pattern of formation. There is a growing phase, a resting phase, and a molting phase where hair is shed. Psoriasis can sometimes cause the hair to miss either the growing or resting phase. This results in a greater than normal amount of hairs being shed. The good news is that this is a temporary condition, and the cycle will eventually return to normal.
Dryness is one of the symptoms that helps to differentiate between dandruff and psoriasis. Dandruff can appear in the scalp even when the skin is moist. While flaking may look like dandruff, psoriatic skin will not be moist. Dryness is also one of the factors that can lead to scratching. It is worth noting that most ordinary shampoos can exacerbate this symptom.
Worsening During Winter Months
Moderate sun exposure is known to help lessen the severity of psoriasis, so many with the condition find improvement during the summer months. This is especially true in those with thinning hair or absence of scalp hair. In the winter, however, the air is dryer and the sunlight is not as plentiful. The lack of sunlight and decreased moisture can cause the psoriasis to worsen during the winter months. While it might be tempting to use a tanning bed during this time, it is not recommended due to the increased likelihood of skin cancer.
Due to the inherent dryness involved in the condition, the skin of the scalp can sometimes crack. Known as fissuring, this symptom is sometimes associated with bleeding and infections. Keeping the scalp as moist as possible may help prevent cracking.
There is no cure for psoriasis, but ample treatments are available. Over the counter tar and dandruff shampoos may offer some relief, but if these are ineffective, consulting a dermatologist is necessary. Patients can discuss with a doctor the possible need for prescription treatment and/or therapy.