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What are the Different Types of Scalp Conditions?

By Elan Kesilman-Potter
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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There are a variety of scalp conditions that can lead to discomfort, skin damage or cosmetic disadvantage. These conditions might be caused by excessive oil production, genetics or scalp infection. Most scalp issues are not contagious, but some conditions caused by infection are transmittable to others. Among the different types of scalp conditions are scalp eczema, folliculitis, psoriasis, ringworm and head lice.

Scalp eczema, also known as seborrheic dermatitis, is a common, non-contagious scalp condition that is caused by a yeast infection resulting in the overproduction of oils and skin cells on the scalp. The excess skin cells adhere to the oils and create patches of dead skin cells that eventually flake off. Although there is no cure for scalp eczema, it can be controlled through the use of medicated shampoos. When medicated shampoos are not effective, a dermatologist might prescribe a steroid lotion for conjunctive use with shampoo. Dandruff is a type of scalp eczema.

Skin abrasions from shaving or rubbing against clothing can result in folliculitis, a scalp condition where one or more hair follicles become inflamed. These inflamed areas usually become infected with Staphylococcus or another bacteria, creating pustules around the affected hair follicles that might itch. Although most cases of folliculitis heal on their own, topical or oral antibiotics might be necessary to treat persistent folliculitis.

Psoriasis is a non-curable and non-contagious skin condition that affects 2-3 percent of the population. Psoriasis causes red, scaly patches that can appear on any portion of the body, including the scalp. It is unclear what causes the condition, but it may be connected to immune system disorders. Specially formulated topical creams are commonly used to reduce the appearance of psoriasis, but severe cases might merit phototherapy or other medications.

Scalp ringworm, or tinea capitis, is a fungal infection that results in raised, red rings on the scalp. These infected rings might cause baldness in the affected area or pus-filled lesions. The condition is most prevalent in children and is contagious. Topical ointments are generally ineffective in treating tringworm infection, so most instances require several weeks of treatment with a medication called griseofulvin.

Another contagious scalp condition is head lice, or pediculosis capitis. Head lice is caused by the infestation of the human head louse and is transmitted to others through close contact or shared, infested belongings. Lice can produce extreme itchiness, prompting infected persons to scratch until scabs form. Removal of head lice is achieved through the use of a head lice removal shampoo with a comb to remove louse eggs. To prevent the reappearance of lice, one should wash all bedding and clothing in hot water, then vacuum all carpets, chairs and couches in the home.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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