It is often difficult to tell the difference between scalp psoriasis and dandruff. This is because both share similar symptoms such as itchy scalp and white flakes of dead skin cells. However, there is a difference between these two scalp problems and it’s important to know the difference in order to seek the correct treatment.
The first thing to note is that psoriasis may be the underlying cause of dandruff. Psoriasis is thought to be caused by immune system and a genetic predisposition to psoriasis. Quite often if a member of your family has psoriasis, you may have inherited the genes. However, not all people who have the psoriasis genes go on to develop psoriasis. People of any age can get psoriasis: children, teenagers, adults and older people. Psoriasis tends to affect males and females equally.
As mentioned, both scalp psoriasis and dandruff can cause similar symptoms. Scalp psoriasis can be triggered off by anything from cuts, abrasions, scratches and even sunburn. More often than not a flare up will happen in winter: the skin becomes flaky and dry because of a lack of natural sunlight. With scalp psoriasis, the patches are commonly seen on the back of the head but can be seen on other areas of the scalp or even cover the entire scalp. The psoriasis may not be confined just to the scalp. Scaly, silvery patches may appear on areas such as elbows, knees, lower back, groin and other body folds.
Dandruff, on the other hand, is primarily caused by naturally occurring fungus, the Malassezia yeast that feeds on the natural oils of the skin. This causes the skin to shed more quickly and to itch. Other possible causes of dandruff include not brushing hair regularly, not enough shampooing, dry skin, diet and stress. Mild dandruff often occurs after puberty, usually between 20-30 years, and tends to affect more men than women.
The treatments for both scalp psoriasis and dandruff tend to be similar. Treatments include using shampoos that contain coal tar and salicyclic acid or topical steroid creams to reduce inflammation. Since dandruff is caused by fungus, using an anti-fungal shampoo to inhibit the growth of the fungi usually does the trick.
The difference between scalp psoriasis and dandruff is that scalp psoriasis may be more resistant to regular treatment. If specific shampoos or steroid creams do not work, then your physician may recommend exposure to ultraviolet light to help the skin repair itself. If this doesn’t work, then oral retinoids may be prescribed, but usually as a last resort.
Now you know that even though scalp psoriasis and dandruff look similar in appearance, there are different causes which may require slightly different treatments.