How can I diagnose and treat an itchy scalp?
Scalp pruritus (also known as itchy scalp) is a common scalp problem that can lead to prolonged irritation. It may be mild or severe i.e. itchy without skin changes or with scabbed or flaking skin, respectively.
Sometimes frequent itchiness may have an underlying cause, or it may be an indication of a severe health condition. Scratching at an itchy scalp is not a good idea as it causes further irritation. You should notice it and find a remedy as soon as possible.
- Why is my head itching so badly?
- Dandruff is the most common cause behind an itchy scalp
- What are the symptoms of an itchy scalp?
- What autoimmune disease causes it?
- How do you stop an itchy scalp?
- What are the medical treatments?
Why is my head itching so badly?
There are many causes of an itchy scalp. Here are some of the major causes below:
- Head lice
- Contact dermatitis, maybe due to using a harsh shampoo
- Allergic reactions to medications
- Shingles (Herpes Zoster)
- Scalp Psoriasis
- Discoid Lupus
- Scarring Alopecia
- Ringworm, or Tinea Capitis
- Hot comb hair loss, due to frequent heat styling
Dandruff is the most common cause behind an itchy scalp
Seborrheic dermatitis commonly known as dandruff is the most common cause of an itchy scalp. It can occur in any age group, even in infants. Dandruff in infants is called cradle cap or crib cap.
During seborrheic dermatitis, the scalp skin becomes dry or greasy and forms white, dead skin flakes in the hairs. It’s often present on the scalp or face where oil-secreting glands are present.
The inflamed sebaceous gland can cause itching, skin redness, and flaking. The major causes included in this type of dermatitis are said to be stress, hormonal changes, seasonal changes, or overgrowth of yeast on the skin.
What are the symptoms of an itchy scalp?
A tingling or painful sensation on the scalp can be a symptom of scalp pruritus or itchy scalp. Scratching your head may relieve the itch for a moment but it can cause pain and frequent scratching can lead to bruises on the skin. There can be many signs and symptoms for scalp pruritus as given below:
- Dry Skin
- Irritated Skin
- Sores On The Scalp
- Bald Patches
- Pus-Filled Sores
- Scales Or Patches On The Scalp
- Scalp Swelling
- Excessive Hair Loss Caused by Itching
What autoimmune disease causes it?
First of all, let a doctor examine your scalp carefully to determine the underlying cause of the itching. If it’s difficult to assess it, a more in-depth examination will be needed.
Here a little piece of skin will be taken from the scalp and sent to a laboratory in order to analyse if any fungal or bacterial infections are the present.
You should also know that Psoriasis is a very common issue that causes an itchy scalp. It’s a chronic autoimmune disease with symptoms that usually create red and scaly patches on the skin. Psoriasis is not a contagious disease.
How do you stop an itchy scalp?
If the condition isn’t severe, home remedies are available. These home remedies help to reduce itchiness and they also effectively treat infections.
- Apple cider vinegar: can be used as it has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties. It can be diluted with water and used after washing your hair to reduce dandruff and an itchy scalp.
- Organic coconut oil: is extracted from fully mature coconuts and contains lauric acid which reduces itchiness. It also reduces irritation caused by eczema.
- Peppermint oil: soothes the scalp, reduces dandruff and soothes irritation.
- Tea tree oil: is antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. It should be diluted before using because the concentrated oil can cause irritation. Alternatively, add a few drops to your shampoo.
Have you tried the 98% Aloe Vera Gel by Dr. Balwi?
This aloe vera gel for hair, face and skincare, has been developed under the supervision of Dr. Balwi our chef medical officer. Aloe vera has many benefits due to its moisturising, cooling and soothing properties. With 98% aloe vera content, this product is ideal for use on irritated skin, itchy scalps, razor burn and sunburn.
What are the medical treatments?
You should see your doctor if you have an itchy scalp for more than 4 days. If there’s hair loss, pain due to intense itching, sores or any patch formation, this is an indication of an underlying health condition. Fungi, bacteria, or lice need to be treated with appropriate medication.
Treatment for an itchy scalp is usually cause-dependent, as each medication works in a unique way against the specific cause. Here are a few causes of scalp irritation:
An itchy scalp, due to dandruff, can be treated by washing the hair with anti-dandruff shampoo and conditioner. These products are specifically formulated to prevent dandruff. Also, topical steroids, antifungal creams, keratolytics, and pyrithione zinc can all be used to treat flaky skin.
Medicine that kills head lice needs to be used if the underlying cause is head lice. Then very fine-tooth comb is used to remove the lice and the eggs from the hair strands.
In addition to treatment, bedding, towels, clothes etc. need to be thoroughly washed (ideally on a hot wash) to kill any lice or eggs that may be present.
Allergic reaction causing an itchy scalp
An allergic reaction is another cause of itchy scalp that requires medical treatment. This reaction can be from any hair products that might contain dyes, fragrances, or chemicals. If the reaction is severe you need to see a doctor immediately.
There are many reasons for an itchy scalp which can usually be treated if diagnosed properly. It’s therefore important to let a physician analyse the causes as soon as the condition appears.
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