One of the most common complaints of dermatological patients is an itchy scalp. For this condition, you should learn to recognise what you can do yourself and when instead you should talk to a specialist.
An itchy scalp is quite common in dermatology. A large epidemiological study showed 44,6% of dermatological patients suffer from it. This symptom can be due to different un-derlying diseases, both cutaneous and systemic, and is quite a diagnostic and therapeutic head-scratcher for physicians.
Its high incidence is first of all due to the peculiar characteristics of the scalp’s skin, which is quite different from other body parts. This area is intensely innervated by sensory branches of the trigeminal nerve and is densely vascularized. Furthermore, it has more hair follicles and sebaceous glands which select a very specific kind of microbial flora that is more susceptible to dermatological complaints. Clearly not all cases of itchy scalp can be ascribed to specific underlying conditions: often they are mere non-specific reactions to external stimuli which should be looked into before contacting a specialist.
For instance you should try to recall whether you’ve recently changed haircare products (shampoo, conditioner, lotions, dye or other hair cosmetic products) or your washing, drying or styling habits. You should also look into possible environmental factors, first and foremost solar exposure, but also travelling by plane (the air is particularly dry on planes), or exposure to chemical substances in a working environment. Whatever the cause, if you identify suspicious external stimuli which could have caused your scalp to itch, avoid them.
Home remedies often work in calming itchiness: try moisturizing your scalp with a glycerin and panthenol lotion. Shampoos with a balanced pH (4.5-6.0) are also quite effective, especially when they contain polidocanol. You should also try to establish whether you have been in contact with potentially infectious people or animals, for example suffering from ringworm, pediculosis or scabies. In this case you’d better get the condition diagnosed and treated with specific anti-parasite medication.
If your scalp is still itchy despite all these tips and tricks, it’s time to make an appointment with your dermatologist. The presence of dandruff would probably point to seborrheic dermatitis (greasy dandruff), psoriasis or atopic dermatitis (dry dandruff). These are the most common conditions, but there are countless rarer ones which are more difficult to di-agnose and quite insidious. For some of them, such as lichen planopilaris, early diagnosis is key to avoid the scarring alopecia (i.e. irreversible hair loss) it causes when undiagnosed and left untreated.
Not only is it incredibly irritating, but an itchy scalp is also a symptom one shouldn’t underestimate, though most often the cause is banal and can be easily solved.
Article of Dr Adele Sparavigna for https://4me.styl