Itch can be a persistent, annoying problem for many patients. Itchy scalp can be particularly troublesome and is sometimes accompanied with dandruff, a rash or even open sores. By understanding the most common causes of itchy scalp and possible treatments, you will be able to determine if you might start relieving your itch with over-the-counter products or if you should see your doctor for a consultation.
If you think about it, scalp skin is very different from skin on other parts of the body. It holds many thick hair follicles and where hair follicles grow, there are also oil glands. Sometimes the presence of these glands can predispose the scalp to particular problems, including itching. There are many causes of itchy scalp. Here are four of the most common ones.
Occasionally, conditions that lead to hair loss can also cause itchy skin. These are not common and the hair loss is usually an obvious symptom whether it is noticed as hair shedding or decreased hair on the scalp. If you think this may be happening to you, it is important to visit with your physician promptly as certain tests like bloodwork or skin biopsies may be needed for diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Itchy scalp caused by seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis will improve with over-the-counter shampoos that include ingredients like selenium, sulfur, tar, zinc or salicylic acid. Importantly, these shampoos must be lathered into the scalp and left to sit for several minutes prior to washing off. They work best when used at least three times weekly.
At times, prescription medications may be required. Anti-yeast shampoos can help to improve seborrheic dermatitis and topical corticosteroid medications are often necessary to treat conditions such as psoriasis and allergic reaction. Folliculitis occasionally improves with over the counter shampoos and at other times may require topical or oral antibiotics depending on its severity.
The take-home message is that if your scalp itch is not resolving with simple over-the-counter measures, seems to be getting worse or is associated with hair loss, contact your primary physician or dermatologist. Here at SkinCare Physicians, all our medical dermatologists are trained in scalp conditions and can help to relieve even your toughest itch.