Scalp psoriasis

Psoriasis is a chronic, inflammatory disease which can affect the skin, joints and nails.  

Disease overview

About Psoriasis

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Psoriasis is a chronic, inflammatory disease which can affect the skin, joints and nails. The causes of psoriasis are not fully understood and are the subject of ongoing research. In psoriasis, the immune system is mistakenly activated, which leads to overproduction of skin cells. Skin cells build up too rapidly on the surface of the skin, forming raised, red, scaly patches (called plaques). These plaques are often itchy and sometimes painful. Psoriasis lesions commonly appear on the scalp, but they can occur anywhere on the body.

Some people are not very affected by their scalp psoriasis symptoms, but for others, psoriasis is a disabling and embarrassing condition that affects their lifestyle and their interactions with others. There are many available treatments that may help to relieve symptoms and improve daily life.

KEY MESSAGES:

IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT PSORIASIS

  • Psoriasis is not contagious.
  • Sufferers develop psoriasis between the ages of 15-20 years or later between 50-60 years. Around 75% of patients are affected before the age of 40.
  • Psoriasis varies from person to person in severity, in clinical presentation and how it responds to treatments.
  • The scalp is the most common places where psoriasis appears, but it can occur anywhere on the body, especially the knees, elbows and trunk.

Symptoms Mayo clinic

Symptoms of scalp psoriasis vary from person to person and may include one or more of the following features:

  • Thick, red patches of skin (plaques) variable in size covered with silvery scales
  • Itching
  • Nail psoriasis and arthritis may also be present

Scalp psoriasis vs. dandruff? Jeanmougin book, Mayo

Dandruff and scalp psoriasis can be sometimes difficult to distinguish. Both are common conditions that affect the scalp and they may share similar symptoms (e.g. itch, redness and scaling). The following table may help you to distinguish between these two conditions by visually examining your and dandruff. However, telling the difference can be difficult. If you’re in doubt about whether your dandruff may indicate scalp psoriasis scaling, talk to your doctor.

Scalp psoriasis dander

Dandruff dander

Larger
Thicker
Silvery
Many

Smaller
Finer
Yellowy or whitish
Powdery, like flour

In addition, psoriasis may occur in more than one part of the body. You should examine your elbows, knees, torso and fingers for symptoms of psoriasis. If you have scalp psoriasis these other areas may be similarly affected. If you’re not sure whether patches on your skin are psoriasis or not, talk to your doctor.

Disease severity

The severity of scalp psoriasis can range from a few spots of dandruff-like scaling to major eruptions that cover large areas and are difficult to treat. Scalp psoriasis can also extend beyond the hairline onto the forehead, the back of the neck and around the ears. Persistent scalp lesions can eventually lead to thinning hair or even hair loss.

Regardless of the severity, scalp psoriasis can impact a person’s quality of life.

Diagnosis

No special blood tests or diagnostic tools exist to diagnose psoriasis. A dermatologist or other health care provider diagnoses psoriasis from the signs and symptoms by examining the entire skin surface. Sometimes a skin biopsy is taken and examined under the microscope to help differentiate between psoriasis and other disorders.

Quality of Life

Psoriasis has important consequences, both physical and emotional. Studies have shown that people with psoriasis have a lower quality of life and lower self-esteem than people who do not have the disorder. The physical impacts of psoriasis include irritation, pain, or burning sensations. The emotional impacts include an increased chance of depression, and impaired coping skills. People with psoriasis can feel stigmatized which may result in avoidance of social settings and increased isolation. In general, the degree of physical and emotional impairment for people with psoriasis is similar to those who have heart disease, cancer, or diabetes. Mrowietz 200

Causes

The causes of psoriasis are not fully understood today. The current consensus is that the immune system, genetics and the environment (e.g. stress, cold weather, etc.) all play major roles in the development of psoriasis. As a result there is skin inflammation accompanied by overproduction of skin cells.

Cells in the upper skin layer normally mature and are shed from the skin’s surface every 28 to 30 days. With psoriasis, the cells can mature in 3 to 6 days then move to the skin surface and pile up.

 

Researchers think that both genetic and environmental factors play a role in causing T cells to malfunction.

  • Scientists believe that at least 10% of the general population inherits one or more of the genes that create a predisposition to psoriasis
  • However, only 2 to 3% of the population develops the disease

Researchers believe that for a person to develop psoriasis, the individual must have a combination of the genes that cause psoriasis and be exposed to specific external factors known as “triggers.”

Psoriasis Triggers

Like many other skin conditions, scalp psoriasis symptoms may come and go in cycles. Some people may not have symptoms for weeks, even months. You may notice that certain factors in your daily life may worsen (“trigger”) your scalp psoriasis symptoms to flare-up. Trigger factors can be different from one person to another. It is important to be aware of the factors and avoid them.

Factors that may trigger psoriasis include:

Infection

· Bacterial throat infection

Stress

· Relaxation and stress reduction may help prevent stress from impacting psoriasis

Injury to skin

· Cut or scraped skin, severe sunburn

Other suspected factors

· Smoking

· Heavy alcohol consumption


Risk Factors mayo clinic

Anyone can develop psoriasis, but these factors can increase your risk of developing the disease:

Family history

The most significant risk factor for psoriasis is having a family history of the disease. 1 out of 3 psoriatic patients has a close relative who also suffers from psoriasis.

Other medical conditions

People with HIV are more likely to develop psoriasis than people with healthy immune systems.
Children and young adults with recurring infections – particularly streptococcal throat infection – may also be at increased risk.

Stress

Stress can impact your immune system, and may increase your risk of developing or worsening your psoriasis.

Obesity

Excess weight increases your risk of psoriasis. In addition, plaques associated with all types of psoriasis often develop in skin creases and folds.

Smoking and alcohol

Smoking tobacco and alcohol consumption increase your risk of developing or worsening psoriasis.

This is a global website focused on educating the public and patients about skin conditions and the different types of treatments that are available to treat and manage these diseases. This site is not intended as a substitute for medical advice from your doctor, and may include discussions about therapies or treatment options that may not be available in your country. We encourage you to use the information contained in this site to educate yourself about your disease and allow better communication between you and your healthcare professional.

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