A flaky scalp can affect your confidence and result in an uncomfortable experience. While you might instinctively blame dandruff for your symptoms, the root cause could lie in psoriasis, a chronic skin disorder.
While both conditions may share similar symptoms at first sight, they each have distinct causes and treatment plans. Distinguishing between dandruff and psoriasis can help you manage symptoms and recover faster, making flaky scalp problems a thing of the past.
Dandruff is commonly associated with a flaky scalp, prompting individuals to use anti-dandruff shampoos and conditioners to keep symptoms under control. Experts believe that the condition can affect up to half of the world’s adult population. The symptoms of dandruff include white, oily flakes that gather near the scalp or fall to your shoulders, itchiness in affected scalp areas, and—in more serious cases—hair loss.
Hair specialists have found two main causes of dandruff: the proliferation of Malassezia yeast in the scalp, and haircare products that get trapped in the hair—both of which cause the scalp to dry out.
Experts have also identified dandruff as a possible genetic condition for some people. In the case of fungal-related dandruff, experts may prescribe treatments that contain specialized ingredients like zinc pyrithione, which inhibits fungal growth.
Psoriasis is a long-term inflammatory disorder that causes the overproduction of skin cells, which results in a flaky, itchy scalp. Research from the National Psoriasis Foundation finds that an estimated 45 to 56 percent of people with psoriasis experience scalp psoriasis.
The most common symptoms of psoriasis of the scalp include dandruff-like flakes, soreness in affected areas, a burning sensation, and reddish or scaly inflamed patches. Individuals with psoriasis may experience rashes in areas aside from the scalp, including the knees and elbows.
While the exact cause of psoriasis remains unknown, skin specialists have identified immune system disorders, infections, and cold weather as contributing factors. While there is currently no known cure for psoriasis, experts can offer various treatment options that include topical corticosteroid creams, monoclonal antibodies, and medicated shampoos. Your skin specialist might prescribe scale softeners containing salicylic acid that allows easier application and absorption of topical treatments.
When to See a Specialist
If your dandruff symptoms fail to improve after a month of using home remedies, seek a specialist’s advice. Similarly, you should consider visiting your skin and hair expert if your psoriasis worsens, causing your scalp to swell or ooze pus and fluid.
Generally, it is best to seek professional consultation if symptoms like hair loss worsen or skin rashes spread beyond the scalp, including areas without hair.
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