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Diagnosing scalp psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis

Scalp psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp can be difficult to differentiate. Both are common conditions that affect the scalp. In addition, they share similar symptoms, such as itchy, red, scaly skin. Fortunately, they also share some similar treatments, such as medicated shampoos. However, scalp psoriasis tends to be more resistant than does seborrheic dermatitis to these treatments.

Most often, the scales of psoriasis are thicker and somewhat drier in appearance than are the scales of seborrheic dermatitis. In addition, psoriasis usually affects more than one area of the body. So if you have scalp psoriasis, you may also have mild psoriasis on your elbows, knees, buttocks or fingers.

There is no single test to confirm a diagnosis of psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis. A diagnosis is usually made with a visual examination of the affected skin. In rare cases, a skin biopsy may be needed to differentiate between the two disorders.

Scalp disorder Signs and symptoms Natural Treatment

Scalp psoriasis
  • Red patches of skin covered with silvery scales
  • Dry, cracked skin that may bleed
  • Itching, burning or soreness
  • Over-the-counter
  • Topical solution such as Pot of Gold skin balm
  • Light therapy

Seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp
  • Patchy scaling or thick crust on the scalp
  • Yellow or white scales that may attach to the hair shaft
  • Red, greasy skin covered with flaky white or yellow scales
  • Small, reddish-brown bumps
  • Itching or soreness
  • Skin flakes or dandruff
  • Over-the-counter
  • Topical solutions such as Pot of Gold skin balm


Source: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. All rights reserved.


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