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Those white flakes might be more than just dandruff. Here’s all you need to know about psoriasis

It's time to distinguish between psoriasis and dandruff as both of them might look similar but have got different treatments altogether.
difference between dandruff and psoriasis
Dandruff got you all worried? Well, it may be psoriasis instead. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Dr Nina Madnani Updated: 13 Oct 2023, 01:32 pm IST
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Caring for your scalp and hair is often a difficult task, especially when it becomes itchy and flaky, and remains unresponsive to all your fancy shampoos. Some conditions of the scalp can be fixed easily with readily available products.

But there is one condition that no hair product can fix—psoriasis. It can resemble dandruff and mislead you into trying to treat it with ordinary anti-dandruff remedies. However, these will not work. This is why you need to learn how to recognise the difference between dandruff and psoriasis.

Scalp psoriasis can look very similar to dandruff, and hence it may be difficult to diagnose. Psoriasis is a chronic genetic autoimmune skin disease, which can be characterised by skin patches that are typically, dry and scaly. It can affect any part of the body.

On the scalp, the psoriasis appears as dry patches, which when scratched, come out as large flakes leaving behind bleeding spots. This can often extend to areas behind the ears/inside the ears and back of the neck. Similar patches may be seen on other parts of the body especially elbows and knees.

It can also cause extreme itching. Hair loss is a common problem in scalp psoriasis because of the damage caused to hair follicles through the inflammation, rubbing, scratching, and excessive combing. It is important for people to be aware that there is a difference between dandruff and scalp psoriasis and speak to a dermatologist to start the appropriate treatment immediately.

Treatment for psoriasis
As psoriasis today is a clue to future metabolic disease, its treatment usually requires the patient to make some lifestyle changes and counselling to help with the distressing condition. It is advisable that psoriasis patients eat more fresh fruit and vegetables for their antioxidant benefits, decrease the consumption of high cholesterol foods and stop alcohol consumption and smoking as they are known to trigger the disease.

Another common trigger for psoriasis is stress, which can make the condition worse. Regular exercise, effective relaxation techniques, such as yoga and meditation, can also help people with this condition.

how to get rid of dandruff
Those flakes may look like dandruff, but they could be a sign of psoriasis instead. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Psoriasis can cause a persistent itch and even if it is intense, it is strongly advised that you do not scratch your scalp. Consult with a dermatologist and follow their instructions on shampooing your hair.

A dermatologist is likely to recommend one or more of the following remedies and treatment for patients with psoriasis:

  • Avoid using hard comb as it could traumatise the scalp and cause the scales to crack and even lead to secondary infection.
  • Using a conditioner after shampooing the scalp can help as the specialised shampoos may dry the hair.
  • Avoiding heat application on the scalp. Hot hair styling dryers and tools should be avoided as far as possible. Instead, patients should use wet towels, cold packs, or cold water to ease the oiling of the scalp and to soften the flakes so that they can be easily washed off.
  • Dermatologists will recommend special shampoos, creams, lotions to heal and maintain a clear scalp. Medicated creams and treatments may be prescribed based on the severity of the psoriasis. Do not fear the shampoos as they reduce the inflammation, heal the skin, and do not lead to baldness.

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About the Author

Dr. Nina is a consultant dermatologist with over 30 years of experience with a special interest in psoriasis. Dr Madnani is a visiting consultant at P.D Hinduja National Hospital. ...Read More

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