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Scalp psoriasis and dandruff are two different conditions but can occasionally be mixed up due to both conditions looking similar in some cases. The confusion is justified as dandruff is a disease and not a symptom but skin flakes that look like dandruff occur in scalp psoriasis as well other scalp conditions.

Dandruff is a commonly occurring condition which can cause itchiness, redness of the scalp and skin flakes which are usually the most noticeable symptom. It is important to note that inflammation is not a symptom of dandruff. On the other hand, psoriasis is a (long-term) inflammatory disease, but it is a much more severe condition and can cause flaking which is similar to what dandruff causes.

Psoriasis usually causes skin breakouts amongst other conditions such as plaques which are not something that is caused by dandruff.

The Distinguishing Feature of Dandruff

Affecting nearly 50 million people in the United States alone, and almost half of the adult population globally, dandruff is an extremely common scalp condition. Only the scalp is affected by dandruff, and it does not cause any inflammation but can result in itching and flaking.

The Problem with Psoriasis

Though it is much less common than dandruff, psoriasis is a serious long-term autoimmune disorder that affects the scalp as well as other parts of the body.

Psoriasis causes the immune system to target the healthy skin cells, drastically shortening their lifecycle. The result is greyish-silvery hardened skin being left behind. This is referred to as plaques. Currently, psoriasis is incurable but can be controlled through treatment where periods of remission and flare-ups might occur. Psoriasis can also cause excessive hair loss which is why people suffering from psoriasis might investigate procedures such as micro scalp pigmentation to regain their hair. Scalp psoriasis hair loss can be an indicator of the disease becoming more severe.

Differentiating Between Dandruff and Psoriasis

Being able to differentiate between the two conditions can allow one to identify if a person is suffering from psoriasis and not a head full of dandruff. Accurately identifying psoriasis at an early stage can allow the patient to start scalp treatment earlier and prevent the spread of the disease to some extent.

The most common symptoms of dandruff include:

  •       Tiny, white coloured skin flakes in the hair and scalp
  •       Frequent itchiness
  •       Redness of the scalp
  •       Oily scalp
  •       Dry, flaky skin on the scalp

Scalp psoriasis has different symptoms including:

  •       Red bumps on the skin that increase in size and form scales
  •       Red or white plaques which are covered in silvery-coloured scales
  •       Itching that can result in the scales being torn off
  •       Flakes and lesions on the scalps
  •       Extensive hair loss

The exact cause of dandruff has not yet been uncovered but the most likely cause seems to be an excess of sebum, but hormonal changes might also be a cause of dandruff. On the other hand, psoriasis usually runs in families but there are cases of the disease which are not genetic. Researchers have found that psoriasis is not contagious but have not yet found the exact cause for its occurrence. Although there might be some answers to how to remove psoriasis scales from scalp, it is recommended that anyone experiencing these symptoms should consult a doctor.