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Dandruff or Scalp Psoriasis? Learn More About the Differences and Treatments

Dandruff or Scalp — New Bern, NC — East Carolina Dermatology and Skin Surgery, PLLC

Do you have dandruff or scalp psoriasis? While the two issues may seem similar, these conditions typically have different causes. If you’re not sure why your scalp is itchy or flaky, take a look at what you need to know about dandruff, psoriasis, and your treatment options.

What Is Dandruff?

Dry, flaky scalp skin is the hallmark of this dermatological condition. Dandruff is a common — and often misunderstood — skin and hair issue. While science hasn’t yet found a precise cause, dandruff isn’t a usually the result of poor hygiene.

If your scalp skin feels dry and lightly flakes away into your hair or onto your shoulders, chances are you have dandruff. But this doesn’t necessarily mean you should self-diagnose this issue. Before you assume dandruff is at fault for your flakes, talk to a dermatologist. The dermatologist can examine the area, take a full health history, and determine whether you have dandruff or something more serious.

Even though the visible dry flakes of dandruff in your hair or on your clothes may embarrass you, this common condition is easy to treat — especially with professional help. There are a variety of commercially available dandruff shampoos available online and in stores. While some of these work well, a dermatologist can recommend the right treatment for your skin’s specific needs.

Along with a top shampoo or other topical choice, the dermatologist can also help you to plan a treatment routine. Some dandruff shampoos are made for once a week or a few times a week use. The doctor can provide instructions for use based on your skin type, the product, and the severity of the problem.

Never use a dandruff shampoo more often than the doctor recommends. This could irritate your sensitive scalp skin. If the dandruff does not clear with treatment, the dermatologist may recommend other options or re-evaluate the root of the problem.

What Is Scalp Psoriasis?

Between 45 and 56 percent of people diagnosed with psoriasis have this condition on their scalp, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. This means that if you have psoriasis in other areas of your body or psoriatic arthritis, you may also have scalp psoriasis.

Scalp psoriasis often looks and feels like dandruff or other dermatological conditions. Patients may also confuse psoriasis of the scalp with seborrheic dermatitis or allergic dermatitis. Unlike some other dry or flaky scalp issues, psoriasis has a powder-like or silver-ish look and may include raised, red, or scaly patches of skin. You may also experience temporary hair loss in the affected area.

Beyond the appearance, the cause of psoriasis separates it from other scalp conditions. Even though it may seem like dry scalp, psoriasis is an autoimmune condition. An autoimmune disorder happens when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body. Psoriasis is one of many autoimmune disorders, including type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus.

Scalp psoriasis requires a doctor’s diagnosis. The dermatologist can differentiate this skin condition from other look-a-likes. Like the cause, the treatment also differs for psoriasis of the scalp. The most common treatment options include topicals (such as shampoos or steroid creams), ultraviolet (UV) light phototherapy, and systemic oral treatments.

Patients who have psoriasis symptoms beyond their scalp may need an oral treatment or biologic to control the symptoms. These options are also available to patients who have tried other treatments without success. The dermatologist will recommend a course of action based on your individual healthcare and skincare needs.

Does a dry, itchy, or flaky scalp bother you? Do you think you may have scalp psoriasis? Contact East Carolina Dermatology and Skin Surgery, PLLC, for more information on your treatment options.

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