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Understanding Scalp Dermatoses
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Understanding Scalp Dermatoses

Scalp dermatoses are skin disorders that can cause the scalp to become red, irritated, flaky and itchy. They can last a lifetime. For some, scalp dermatoses worsen over time; others go into remission for months, even decades. Although neither fatal nor contagious, scalp disorders diminish self-esteem by causing social embarrassment.

The most common conditions are scalp psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis and atopic dermatitis (eczema). Those affected often have a combination of these problems. If you have any of these scalp conditions, you are one of the millions of Americans affected.

Scalp Psoriasis

Psoriasis, from the Greek word for itch, is the abnormal maturation and rapid shedding of skin caused by inflammation. The condition causes inflammation of the scalp characterized by the presence of reddened skin and silver-white, flaky scales. In many, intense itching is also present. Researchers believe a faulty immune system somehow triggers the psoriasis. Although anyone can get it, at least half of those who have it also have psoriasis elsewhere on their bodies. Psoriasis affects both men and women. Nearly one-third of psoriasis patients have a family history of the condition.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

This condition is characterized by inflammation, scaling and flaking, as well as redness, itching and crusting in body parts with many oil glands like the scalp, eyebrows and sides of the nose. Some scientists believe yeast in these oil-rich areas may cause the condition. Seborrheic dermatitis, most common in males 13 years and older, may also affect infants in whom the condition is sometimes referred to as “cradle cap.”

Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema)

This condition can appear as an itchy spot on the scalp. Uncontrolled scratching then causes the skin to become red, irritated and flaky. Irritated or dry skin (from allergies, scratchy material, or changes in temperature) can also cause the problem. Although it can appear at any age, atopic dermatitis is more common among infants and children. Most people with atopic dermatitis have family members with the disease.

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