Successful management of scalp psoriasis begins with an accurate diagnosis. If you have scales, flaking, itching or other symptoms, don't self-diagnose. The condition closely resembles other skin conditions affecting the scalp, such as seborrheic and other types of dermatitis. Consult a dermatologist, who will make a definitive diagnosis with lab analysis of a skin sample. Although it cannot be cured, once you confirm that you're dealing with scalp psoriasis, you have a variety of options for treating the condition.
Often, products applied directly to the scalp are the first line of defense against mild to moderate scalp psoriasis. Topical corticosteroids reduce inflammation and associated symptoms. These medications are a hallmark of scalp psoriasis treatment, notes the American Academy of Dermatologists on its PsoriasisNet website. Your dermatologist may suggest a low-potency, over-the-counter product at first, but stronger doses are commonly prescribed. Calcipotriene or other vitamin D analogues are another topical treatment possibility, as are vitamin A derivatives known as topical retinoids, such as tazarotene.
Oral and Injected Medications
There are also oral and injected medications that are prescribed for severe cases of scalp psoriasis. These include oral retinoids, methotrexate to inhibit skin cell production and reduce inflammation, cyclosporine to suppress the immune response that causes symptoms, immunomodulators and other drugs.
Certain shampoos are well-suited to treating scalp psoriasis in many individuals. A number of appropriate products are sold over the counter, often marketed for the purposes of controlling the condition. Ask your dermatologist about trying a shampoo containing coal tar or salicylic acid. Such products are often enough to manage mild scalp psoriasis on their own, while moderate or severe conditions may benefit from shampoos in conjunction with other therapies. If these shampoos prove inadequate, your dermatologist may prescribe one containing the corticosteroid clobetasol propionate.
Phototherapy is a fancy word for light treatments. Scalp psoriasis benefits from exposure to ultraviolet radiation. A variety of lasers and other artificial light sources apply direct UVB rays to the scalp, some of which are available for home use. Photochemotherapy, a more aggressive form of phototherapy, entails taking a UVA light-sensitizing medication to make the scalp more responsive to exposure. This course of therapy is generally used in conjunction with a larger treatment plan.
Lifestyle approaches to scalp psoriasis treatment help reduce symptoms and flareups. In general, quit smoking, limit alcohol consumption to very small quantities and eat a healthy diet comprised primarily of whole foods. Note your personal triggers, which may include certain fabrics, stress or certain weather conditions. Do your best to avoid contact with these triggers. Daily bathing in lukewarm water soothes skin and removes scales. Add colloidal oatmeal, a gentle bath oil, Epsom salt or Dead Sea Salt into the water and soak your scalp for about 15 minutes.