HELP FOR ITCHY SCALP
Scratching your head as you read this? You may be embarrassed – but you’re certainly not alone. Thousands of Americans suffer from itchy scalp. Many find relief in over-the-counter medicated shampoos. For those who don’t, a good dermatologist can pinpoint and attack the culprit behind the itch.
FLAKEY FLARE UPS
Seborrheic dermatitis, commonly known as dandruff, accounts for most cases of itchy scalp. Symptoms include greasy scales that may also show up on the eyebrows, eye lids, and nose. Excessive scratching can occasionally lead to bleeding and infection. For some, dandruff develops because of cold weather, infrequent shampooing, or certain hair products. Others flare up in response to stress or lack of sleep.
Whatever the cause, a prescription topical steroid lotion, massaged into the scalp, can clear dandruff far more quickly and efficiently than anything you buy over-the-counter. The problem usually resolves after a few days of treatment – which you can continue to use indefinitely, or in response to the occasional flare.
Other, less common culprits behind scalp itch need more aggressive attention. Because it also causes scaling, a fungus (commonly called “ringworm”) is sometimes confused with seborrheic dermatitis, though the former can also cause patchy hair loss in the affected area. A dermatologist can confirm the diagnosis. Because ringworm lives in the hair follicles, the only way to get rid of it is with an oral anti-fungal medicine, taken for six to eight weeks.
And then there’s the dreaded L word: Much more prevalent in children, lice spread easily through classrooms, sometimes migrating onto adult heads. The key to banishing the bugs is getting rid of their tiny eggs, called “nits”, which remain glued to the hair until a fine-tooth comb removes them. Many topical over-the-counter and prescription treatments kill lice, but not their eggs. When we diagnose patients with lice, we discuss several treatment options, including topical and oral medication—along with local services that specialize in eradicating these bugs from the head and from the home.
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