The information in this section must not be used for self-diagnosis and self-treatment. In the event of pain or other exacerbation, diagnostic tests must only be prescribed by your doctor. For diagnosis and correct treatment, please contact your doctor. scalp itching: causes, conditions under which it occurs, diagnosis and treatment.
The desire to scratch one’s scalp is surely familiar to everyone. For some people, scalp itching is associated with emotional stress, for others it is caused by improper hair care, while for others it is a symptom of dermatological problems or diseases of internal organs and systems.
Varieties of skin itching
Scalp itching can be chronic (more than 6 weeks) or situational, as a protective reflex aimed at removing irritating substances or objects on the surface of the skin.
Scalp itching is classified in the same way as any other skin itch:
- dermatological, or pruritogenic itching (in skin diseases – atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, scabies, pediculosis, etc.);
- systemic itching (in pathologies of internal organs – primary biliary cirrhosis, Hodgkin’s disease, etc.);
- neurological/neuropathic (when the nervous system is affected);
- psychogenic (caused by stress and emotional tension);
- idiopathic (of unspecified etiology);
- somatoform (in mental disorders);
- multifactorial (when combining two or more of the above factors).
Possible causes of scalp itching
- Dry epidermis. Occurs as a result of dysfunction of the sebaceous glands, a decrease in sebum production, which leads to hair breakage, fine dandruff and hyperreactivity (hypersensitivity) of the skin.
- Mechanical or chemical trauma to the scalp. These include frequent use of styling products, sharp combs, hot air drying, colouring hair with aggressive dyes, and shampooing with aggressive surfactants.
- Muscle overstretching often occurs in people who prefer tight hairstyles with prolonged rigid hair fixation, or in those whose occupation requires them to remain in the same posture for prolonged periods of time. Such overexertion causes muscle spasm in the back and cervical collar zone and microcirculation disorders, which in turn lead to unpleasant painful sensations on the scalp and itching.
- Pediculosis. Lice infestation is still prevalent in the population. It occurs from an infected person when using shared household items (combs, towels), clothing (hats, rubber bands).Itching of the scalp develops where lice bite.
- Fungal lesions of the scalp are much less common than fungal nail lesions, but are less successfully treated. They are manifested by hair brittleness (often at the base), severe skin itching, dandruff and pink patches rising above the skin surface.
- Shingles is a fungal or viral pathology that also causes an itchy scalp.The clinical picture of this disease is: itching and burning skin, flaky pink or scarlet spots surrounded by irritated skin.A characteristic feature of ringworm is hair loss on the affected areas. The skin is pale, flaky and very itchy.
- Demodechiasis. The causative agent is a microscopic mite, a disease of the genus Demodex, which inhabits the hair follicles and sebaceous glands. Demodechosis appears as reddening of the skin, nodules, pustules and acne, brittle hair, constant itching, large amounts of dandruff and can spread to other areas of the skin – face, eyelids, neck and the area behind the ears.
Body system abnormalities
- Seborrhea is a pathological skin condition characterized by increased sebum production and the resulting thickening of the dermis, resulting from malfunctions of certain body systems (neural, endocrine and sexual). Seborrhea can develop in patients with diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Dry seborrhea is often localized on the face (seborrheic dermatitis), while oily seborrhea occurs on the scalp. Seborrhoea manifests itself clinically as an extremely itchy and painful scalp, hair becomes greasy, has a whitish scales that tend to stick together directly on the skin to form red or brown flakes, which can bleed if injured (eg scratched).
- Hypovitaminosis. Often a deficiency of essential vitamins and minerals can cause cell damage, as indicated by dry, sensitive skin, hair breakage, excessive hair loss and itching.
- Frequent stress can cause an itchy scalp. This is due to an increased release of adrenaline in the blood, which leads to peripheral vasoconstriction (vasoconstriction) and, consequently, to a reduction in the blood supply and nutrition of the epidermis.
- Allergy is one of the most common diagnoses. In most cases, allergies are not limited to rashes on exposed areas of the body, but can also occur on the scalp and cause itching. Red to pale pink blisters (with urticaria), lacrimation, swollen eyelids and reddening (with allergic conjunctivitis) are common on the skin of the extremities and trunk. Nasal breathing difficulties, nasal itching and sneezing are caused by allergic rhinitis.
- Neurodermatitis may also cause an itchy scalp. The disease is characterized by an increase in symptoms during periods of emotional stress and small itchy plaques which are most often localized on the back of the head, neck, genitals and in the intercalvic folds.
- Poisoning of the body with conditionally toxic and toxic substances – aluminum, beryllium, mercury, etc. The presence of high concentrations of these substances in the body causes both systemic manifestations of poisoning and local – hair loss, scalp discomfort, including itching.
- Hypothyroidism is a disease associated with reduced production of thyroid hormones, one of the symptoms of which may be skin itching caused by dry epidermis.
What doctors to contact
If your scalp becomes itchy, you should consult a trichologist or dermatologist who will help to determine the cause of the pathology and prescribe the necessary examinations.
Diagnostics and examinations in case of an itchy scalp
Diagnosing head lice involves carefully examining the patient’s scalp to detect lice and nits.
A cytological examination is carried out to detect fungal infestation.
If hypovitaminosis is suspected, the doctor may prescribe a number of blood tests to verify the diagnosis – for example, to determine the concentration of vitamins, a deficiency of which can cause deterioration of the skin, hair and nails.
What to do if your scalp itches
The first step is to use hypoallergenic hair care products. And you should only wash your hair when it’s dirty. If this simple algorithm fails, itching persists and even gets worse, you need to visit a trichologist or dermatologist.
Itchy skin treatment
- If the itchy scalp is related to dryness of the epidermis, in many cases it is sufficient to select the right products for scalp and hair care, as well as gentle hair styling regime.
- For muscular strain, it is advisable to exercise the neck and back muscles at regular intervals, avoid tight hairstyles and gently massage the scalp while washing the hair.
- If head lice are suspected, local anti-pediculosis medication is prescribed.
- For fungal infections of the scalp, therapy should only be prescribed by a doctor, as antifungal agents are toxic to varying degrees and have contraindications and restrictions on their use. Depending on the severity of the process and the effectiveness of the therapy, antibiotics or hormonal preparations may be included in the treatment regimen.
- Topical glucocorticosteroids (hormonal creams and ointments) are used for external treatment of psoriasis. Antihistamines (anti-allergic agents), glucocorticosteroids and antimalarials are used as systemic therapy. Suppressive therapy (immunomodulators, vitamins) is effective and helps to minimise the risk of recurrence. The treatment of shingles is based on oral antiviral medication. Shingles is treated with topical and systemic antifungals.
- For seborrhoea, a hypoallergenic diet is indicated, avoiding fatty foods, alcohol, sweets, fast carbohydrates etc. Therapy includes the selection of therapeutic hair care products, the use of hormones and salicylic acid preparations. Internally, vitamin and mineral complexes containing vitamins B, A, E, C, copper and zinc, antimycotic agents, antibiotics (if there is a secondary bacterial infection of the scalp), antihistamines, glucocorticosteroids are prescribed.
- For the successful treatment of allergies, contact with the allergen must be avoided. In addition, the doctor prescribes antihistamines and adjusts the diet.
- At neurodermatitis there is a complex treatment, including physiotherapy, sedatives and hormones, a hypoallergenic diet, sleep and rest regime.
- If toxic substances are suspected, detoxification therapy is prescribed.
If the scalp becomes itchy, a trichologist or dermatologist should be consulted to help determine the cause and prescribe the necessary tests. The diagnosis of head lice involves a thorough examination of the patient’s scalp to detect lice and nits.
Kefir and burdock oil is an effective scalp mask for itching that can be applied at home. To prepare it, take four spoonfuls of kefir and a spoonful of burdock oil. All ingredients are mixed and applied to the scalp. The hair is covered with a towel or cellophane.