An itchy, flaky scalp is a common skin complaint. Often it's just dandruff, but sometimes it can be a sign of a chronic health condition.
Whether you first see the flakes on your bare shoulders or your black cashmere sweater, your reaction is probably one of horror: Dandruff! The unwanted scales are one of the most common skin conditions in the world. An estimated 50 million Americans deal with dandruff each year. Actually, "dandruff" is really just a layman's term for a flaky scalp. A dermatologist would call the condition seborrheic dermatitis or pityriasis capitis.
But sometimes the flakes and itchiness are due to another condition entirely: scalp psoriasis, which is a chronic inflammatory disorder. "It can be hard for patients to tell them apart because it's hard to inspect your own scalp," says Pooja Sodha, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at the George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences and Director of the Center for Laser and Cosmetic Dermatology in Washington, DC. "And they both have similar symptoms of itching and scaling."
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