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Introduction to Itchy Skin

Itchy skin, medically known as pruritus, is a bothersome symptom of many conditions and it can be also related to non-medical factors. All areas of the skin can be affected, including scalp. There are numerous causes of pruritus. The symptoms may develop as a consequence of a variety of skin conditions, it can be associated with internal illnesses such as liver disease or kidney failure or itchiness may just be associated with the use of certain cosmetic products.

Causes of Itchy Scalp

There are many causes for having itchy scalp. The problem can be associated with certain cosmetic products or it develops due to skin conditions. The treatment for itchy scalp basically depends on the underlying causeso this is why it is essential to identify the actual cause in order to start the correct therapy.

In many cases itchy scalp occurs due to dryness of the scalp skin. The skin may become dry due to harsh shampoos, hair lotions and tinctures which contain alcohol. Even frequent washing may cause an itchy sensation. Another frequent cause of itchy scalp is dandruff. In mild cases dandruff does not cause an itchy sensation but if it is accompanied by yeast infection the affected skin becomes itchy. 

Both, seborrhea dermatitis and contact dermatitis can cause an itchy scalp. In seborrheic dermatitis the affected skin is red and scaly while in contact dermatitis the inflammation of the skin causes crusting, oozing and scaling.

Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition which typically affects the elbows and knees but even the skin on the scalp can be affected. In this case apart from itching sensation the affected skin is covered with thick scales and scattered plaques. Once the scales are scraped off, the affected skin starts to bleed.

Parasitic, fungal and bacterial infection can be also related to itchy scalp. This particularly refers to head lice infestation and tinea capitis. Head lice infestation requires prompt treatment since scratching of the skin may lead to secondary bacterial infection and subsequent oozing, crusting and other inflammatory changes of the affected skin. In tinea capitis a skin is very itchy and scratching usually leads to patchy loss of hair. Pyogenic infection of the scalp is a bacterial infection that predominantly affects malnourished children. Apart from itchy sensation it features with flaky crusts with yellowish discharge.

Lichen planus is another medical condition that may affect the scalp and cause an itchy sensation. This is a chronic mucocutaneous skin condition which typically features papules, lesions and rashes.

Itchy scalp may be also associated with pityriasis amiantacea, an eczematous condition of the scalp which eventually leads to hair loss.

And finally, itchy scalp may be connected to hair follicle inflammation/ infection called folliculitis and neurogenic excoriation.

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