Scalp Psoriasis Overview

Scalp Psoriasis Treatments

Scalp psoriasis 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 [source: National Psoriasis Foundation].

Derivatives of vitamins A and D are also used to treat 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 [source: National Psoriasis Foundation].

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 [sources: American Academy of Dermatology and Mayo Clinic].

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 [source: Hitti].

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