Is it Scalp Psoriasis, Dandruff or Something Else? | Whittier, CA | PIH Health

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Published on June 23, 2022

Is it Scalp Psoriasis, Dandruff or Something Else?

Photo of a young woman checking her scalp in a mirrorAn itchy, flaky scalp is a common symptom of dandruff but these symptoms can also be mistaken for seborreheic dermatitis or scalp psoriasis. It’s important to know the difference between dandruff and other skin conditions so that you can get the treatment that’s best for you.

“If you’re struggling with an itchy scalp and think it may be something other than dandruff, see your primary care physician who can refer you to a dermatologist for further examination,” says Jamal Saleh MD, a PIH Health dermatologist in Whittier. “A dermatologist can prescribe the best treatment for your scalp and can continue to monitor your symptoms.”

Here are some descriptions of each condition and their symptoms below.

Dandruff and Seborrheic Dermatitis

Dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis are considered to be various spectrums of the same condition.

Dandruff consists of loose flaking of the scalp without obvious redness or inflammation of the scalp. Seborrheic dermatitis, on the other hand, can involve the scalp, face, behind the ears, and chest. Seborreheic dermatitis can look red, irritated, and inflamed, and like dandruff, can have flaking and scale. Both seborreheic dermatitis and dandruff can cause your scalp to itch. Comparable to scalp psoriasis, seborreheic dermatitis is caused by hyperproliferation, uncontrolled growth of the skin, which causes it to build up and flake off.

While there are shampoos to help with dandruff and seborreheic dermatitis, if symptoms do not improve and get worse, then a visit to the dermatologist is recommended.

Scalp Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a chronic disease and is linked to inflammation throughout the body and some people experience this on their scalp. Scalp psoriasis produces red, scaly plaques or can be silver-white in color based on skin tone. People who have scalp psoriasis experience intense itchiness paired with a burning sensation. Plaques can also extend to the forehead, neck or ears. Some people also experience alopecia (hair loss) caused by scalp psoriasis.

Treatment

Treatment can be similar for any of these conditions and can vary from steroids, keratolytic treatments, such as salicylic acid, to over-the-counter, anti-dandruff shampoo. Talk to your doctor should you have concerns regarding itching or discomfort of the scalp and ask to be connected with a dermatologist.

To find a PIH Health dermatologist near you, visit PIHHealth.org/Dermatology or visit Dr. Saleh's physician profile to make an appointment with him.

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.