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What Are the Different Types of Scalp Disorders?

Head lice is a common cause of itchy scalp.
A sebaceous cyst on a scalp.
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  • Written By: Ricky Andromeda
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Images By: Goodluz, Paul Huxley
  • Last Modified Date: 21 March 2014
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Scalp disorders are fairly common. There are numerous problems and conditions of the skin on the scalp that can cause bleeding, flaking, dandruff, hair loss and other nasty problems. Some common scalp disorders include dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis, which is an inflammatory scalp condition. Some conditions, such as telogen effluvium and alopecia, result in hair loss. Other disorders can be caused by a fungal infection or by a parasite, such as in the case of head lice. Ingrown hairs, called folliculitis, also are possible on the scalp and can be very painful.

Dandruff, also called pityriasis, is the most familiar of all scalp disorders. Dandruff results from oil on the scalp and hair causing a buildup of dead skin cells that shake lose and accumulate on the shoulders, clothing and furniture. Dandruff cannot be cured, but it usually can be controlled with over-the-counter shampoos.

Telogen effluvium and alopecia are much less common scalp disorders that cause loss of hair in patches. Alopecia is an an immune deficiency disease and usually occurs in one or two patches on the scalp; in very rare cases, however, it can also cause complete body hair loss. Telogen effluvium causes rapid scalp hair loss in patches, but usually is a temporary response to stress, trauma or certain kinds of medication. While hair rejuvenation medication exists, not all patients respond to it.

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Seborrheic dermatitis is a condition involving inflammation of the skin on the scalp and other hairy areas. Seborrhea is a condition that causes overproduction of sebum, or skin oil, which leads to oily, inflamed skin with yellowish scales that may shed. Scalp psoriasis is a similar condition and causes gray scaling and red patches that sometimes extend beyond the scalp. Both scalp disorders are painful, but they usually can be treated with shampoos and prescription medication.

Other scalp disorders include a variety of scalp infections, which can also affect other parts of the body. The three most common types of infection are fungal, plant and animal infection. Common fungal infections of the scalp include tinea capitis, which causes round ringworm patches on the scalp that usually are white or gray. The infection eats away at hair, eyebrows and eyelashes unless treated with antibiotics.

Scabies, sometimes called sarcoptic mange, also can affect the scalp. Tiny mites burrow into the skin and cause infections, which may result in red sores, hair loss and itchiness. Head lice, also called pediculosis capitis, are a parasitic infection that affects the scalp. Lice feed on the scalp tissue and cause itching. Head lice is extremely contagious and should be treated immediately. Other scalp infections include furuncles and carbuncles, which are fungal infections that cause boils and scalp lesions.

Folliculitis is one of the more painful scalp disorders that causes ingrown hairs. Pustules that itch and ooze form around the base of hair follicles, causing extreme discomfort and sometimes leading to infection. If unchecked, folliculitis can lead to cysts forming on the scalp and other regions of the body. These cysts must be lanced and, sometimes, sewn up.

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Discuss this Article

anon354151
Post 2

I had an itchy patch of skin on my head. Now it has turned into a hard knot-like cyst thing. It does not hurt or anything. It is just really hard. What is this and what can I do to get it to go away?

anon189984
Post 1

I have had severe itching and food allergies for eleven months. I've felt crawling in my hair that long also. I have erythmalgia. Is anything from parasites connected?

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