Psoriasis is a common skin condition, affecting approximately 2% of people in The UK. It usually develops in patches and presents as red, flaky areas of skin, which are covered with silvery scales.
Psoriasis can develop at any age, however, it most often occurs in adults under the age of 35. One area of the body that is commonly affected by psoriasis is the scalp. Scalp psoriasis is generally a chronic condition that involves periods of little to no symptoms, followed by periods where symptoms flare up. The severity of scalp psoriasis will vary from person to person, with some sufferers experiencing only minor irritation. However, for others, the condition can be more severe, which can have a major impact on their quality of life.
Psoriasis is caused by the body producing excess amounts of skin cells. These cells are normally renewed every 3-4 weeks, but in psoriasis, this process happens significantly quicker (3-7 days). This build-up of skin cells results in the red, crusty patches associated with psoriasis. Why this process is expedited isn’t fully understood, though it is believed to be related to a problem with the immune system. For sufferers of psoriasis, the immune system is thought to mistakenly attack healthy skin cells, causing the faster than normal turnaround in cell renewal.
Psoriasis isn’t contagious, which means it cannot be spread from person to person. The condition can be hereditary, though the exact role genetics play in psoriasis is still unclear. Psoriasis symptoms can be exacerbated by certain triggers, such as skin trauma, throat infections and certain medicines.
Eczema of the scalp
Eczema is a condition that causes inflammation of the skin. For most sufferers it is a chronic condition, however, for some, it can improve over time. Eczema can affect any part of the body, though a commonly affected area is the scalp. Sufferers of scalp eczema will usually experience periods where symptoms are mild to non-existent, followed by periods where symptoms flare-up.
Specifically, scalp eczema will cause the scalp to feel itchy and inflamed, as well as causing dry skin to form. The most common form of scalp eczema is Seborrheic Dermatitis, which has the associated symptom of dandruff.
The exact causes of scalp eczema are still unclear, although a variety of triggers have been identified. These include:
- Irritants, such as soaps and detergents.
- Environmental factors, such as cold or dry weather.
- Allergens, such as dust mites, pet fur, pollen and moulds.
- Food allergies, such as nuts, dairy or wheat.
- Certain fabrics, such as wool or synthetic materials.
- Hormonal changes, such a woman’s monthly period.
- Very dry skin
- Heavy sweating.
- Greasy hair or skin.
- Other skin conditions, such as psoriasis, rosacea or acne.
Scalp eczema could also be caused by an overproduction of sebum, which is an oily substance secreted by the sebaceous glands in the scalp. This overproduction can encourage a natural skin fungus, called Malassezia to multiply. This overgrowth can cause the scalp to become irritated, which can lead to eczema of the scalp.
Dandruff is a common skin condition that affects the scalp. The condition causes dry white/grey flakes of dead skin to appear on the scalp and in the hair. The condition occurs because the body’s process of skin cell renewal is accelerated. This acceleration causes excessive amounts of dead skin cells to accumulate, which causes dandruff.
It is not always clear why dandruff happens, however, possible causes include:
- Seborrheic dermatitis.
- Overusing hair products.
- Emotional stress.
- Washing hair either too frequently or not frequently enough.
Dandruff is a common condition, which often occurs after puberty and usually, continues until middle age. It has been reported that the condition is more common in men than women. Dandruff is believed to affect all ethnic groups equally.