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Treatment for Scalp Psoriasis

Written by Megan Kinder, with some information gathered from the National Psoriasis Foundation, American Academy of Dermatology, Hitti, and Mayo Clinic [email protected]

Although many people seek Treatment for Scalp psoriasis, it unfortunately cannot be cured, but its symptoms can be treated and management of the disease can be effective. Treatment typically begins with a topical medication. Anthralin, for example, is a scalp treatment that is applied to the scalp, left on for a short period of time and then washed off. Anthralin's most common side effects are irritation and skin staining. In fact, it stains more than skin, so persons using it should be careful during application. A 1 percent concentration anthralin cream called Psoriatec often limits staining.

Derivatives of vitamins A and D are also used during the treatment for scalp psoriasis. Calcipotriene (Dovonex) is derived from vitamin D and is used at night in combination with a shower cap or plastic bag. The vitamin A derivative known as Tazarotene (Tazorac) is available as a gel or cream. Like Dovonex, this medication is applied before bed. Doctors may also prescribe a topical steroid, or corticosteroid. Available in various forms, including gels, foam and lotion, these medications vary in strength from mild to strong.

Pills and injections are more likely to be used in cases where psoriasis is found not only on the scalp but also on other areas of the body. In this case, cyclosporine, methotrexate, corticosteroid, oral retinoids or oral vitamin D derivatives can be used to treat the combined conditions. Another type of medication called biologics, or immunomodulators, can be used for particularly severe cases. These medications, which include alefacept, efalizumab, etanercept, infliximab and ustekinumab, work by blocking communication between cells in your immune system.

In September 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new injection medication for treatment of plaque psoriasis. The medication, called Stelara, can be used for moderate to severe psoriasis. Stelara stops proteins involved in the overproduction of skin cells in psoriasis sufferers. It also combats inflammation. An advantage of Stelara is that injections are only required every 12 weeks, after two more closely spaced treatments. Other injectable treatments require injections that are more frequent. The medication has some potentially dangerous side effects, including an increased risk of contracting a serious infection. There may also be an increased cancer risk associated with Stelara.

It may be that a scalp psoriasis sufferer never needs to use prescription-strength medication. Read on to learn about at-home treatments.

At-Home Treatment for Scalp Psoriasis

For people with mild to moderate scalp psoriasis, over-the-counter products or home remedies might work for your treatment for scalp psoriasis.

Salicylic acid, which can be found in a variety of soaps and shampoos, is frequently used to soften scales, thus making them easier to remove. But be prepared for some possible damage or hair loss; salicylic acid can weaken hair shafts, making them susceptible to breakage. However, any hair loss should be temporary.

You can also use heated olive oil to soften scales during your Treatment for Scalp Psoriasis. After application to the scalp, treatment consists of wrapping the head in a towel for several hours or sitting under a hair dryer. Other over-the-counter scale-softening topical medications include ingredients such as urea, lactic acid and phenol.

Tar products -- both coal and, less frequently, wood -- are effective treatment for scalp psoriasis. Tar products come in a variety of forms, but are often seen in shampoos. The drawbacks of tar products are the strong odor and staining. Tar can stain and discolor bedding, linens, clothing and white or gray hair. Tar products are massaged into the scalp and left on for a certain period of time before being rinsed off. If a tar product is used in shampoo form, try following it with a non-medicated conditioner to help eliminate the tar smell.

Phototherapy -- either at-home or done by a medical professional (such as with an excimer laser) -- can also be used to effectively treat scalp psoriasis. Phototherapy can be as simple as using natural sunlight. It's also possible to use a hand-held UV comb to get light treatment to the scalp. The National Psoriasis Foundation's Web site has a database that allows visitors to search for treatments that are most effective for the scalp or other body parts.

No matter what you choose -- prescription, over-the-counter or home remedy, it's important to note that the National Psoriasis Foundation cautions that if the treatment for scalp psoriasis seems worse than the actual disease itself, it's too harsh and changes should be made to your treatment plan.

For additional information or support regarding treatment for scalp psoriasis, email me ([email protected]).

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