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Burning scalp syndrome is a poorly understood condition in which part or all of a person's scalp feels itchy, tender, tingly, or hot. The disorder is usually chronic, and the intensity of symptoms can fluctuate from hardly noticeable to nearly unbearable. The limited research that has been done on this condition has uncovered many potential causes and risk factors, including inflammatory skin diseases such as psoriasis, the onset of hair loss, and psychiatric problems such as depression and anxiety disorders. The course of treatment is determined on a case-by-case basis, but it often includes soothing topical creams or oral antidepressants.
Little is known about the true causes of burning scalp syndrome, though many theories exist. Many patients with the condition also suffer from skin problems elsewhere on their bodies related to psoriasis and other autoimmune disorders. Androgenetic alopecia, or male-pattern baldness, may be a predisposing factor in both men and women as they age. People who have overly sensitive scalps may experience acute burning sensations when using irritating shampoos, dyes, and other haircare products, but they rarely develop chronic scalp problems.
One of the most common findings in people with this condition is a history of psychological problems, especially depression. The correlation between physical symptoms of the scalp and depression are not clear, though it is well known that depressive disorders can result in chronic aches and pains. Many patients in research studies have reported that their symptoms worsen when they are under a great deal of stress in their lives.
A person who experiences frequent or chronic scalp pain should visit a dermatologist to learn more about the condition and possible remedies. If a physical exam reveals scalp inflammation, the first course of treatment is typically anti-inflammatory ointments and creams. Patients are often instructed to use mild shampoos, avoid irritating haircare products, and apply topical creams daily until symptoms improve. If the initial examination does not reveal a clear physical problem and the patient has a history of stress or depression, the dermatologist may suggest a psychological evaluation.
Patients who have depression and burning scalp syndrome frequently benefit from daily oral antidepressants and regular counseling sessions. Low-dose antidepressants, such as doxepin hydrochloride and amitriptyline hydrochloride, can help lower stress and may even have painkilling properties. Psychological counseling can help a patient better understand his or her mental problems and develop effective stress-relieving techniques. Most people who seek treatment eventually see major improvements.