Itchy Scalp

With Bay Cluster Network

Itchy scalp is a very common condition encountered in general practice. It can cause embarrassment and irritation for those affected by it. There are a number of causes of this condition. In this article we focus on some common causes and their management.

Seborrhoeic dermatitits 

Seborrhoeic dermatitis can be a common cause of a sore rash on the scalp that can be itchy. The rash can often look red and may have some white scales on it. These scales can actually flake off, so it can be confused for a little dandruff. While we don’t know the actual cause of this condition, many speculate it is due to an overgrowth of a common yeast skin organism. Patients will often get flare ups in the winter and it can be linked to increased stress. It is more common in the male population and can run in families. It is treated by an anti-fungal shampoo, ketoconazole which is available from your local pharmacy.


The name is misleading, it isn’t actually caused by a parasitic worm, it is a common fungal infection that can affect your scalp. It can cause dry scalp patches or can cause a red ring appearance. If it is not treated the infection could cause damage to the hair and could result in patches of hair to be lost. This is contagious, so it is important not to share hairbrushes and towels and it can be passed on via the back of chairs. It is usually treated using antifungal tablets that are taken orally. The anti-fungal shampoos generally don’t work because the fungal infection has reached the hair follicle where the shampoo can’t reach. If you suspect you have this, it is important to see your GP for treatment.


Psoriasis is a skin condition that can affect any part of your body including the scalp. The most common form of psoriasis is known as plaque psoriasis and many of those that suffer from plaque psoriasis often get it on their scalp. It should be noted that a small number of people develop psoriasis on their scalp and don’t have it anywhere else on their body. It can often present like the fungal infections, a dry scaly rash that can be itchy making it often difficult to differentiate from other scalp conditions. It commonly affects the hairline at the back of the head and can cause what looks like heavy dandruff.

It is treated with a combination of both shampoos and scalp applications however more aggressive treatment is sometimes needed. We use coal tar-based shampoo at first and topical steroid treatment is sometimes recommended too.

Head lice

Lice are small insects that live on the scalp. They can be spread by head to head contact and can cause itching due to the saliva or faeces of the lice. You can get head lice treatments from your local pharmacy.


This is the most common cause of a dry flaky scalp and affects many of us. It’s caused by dead skin cells being shed more rapidly and even though not harmful, it can be embarrassing and irritating. It can be caused by excessive use of hair products so avoiding potential triggers and using anti dandruff shampoo usually solves this problem.

Many of your itchy scalp issues can be solved by simple treatment available at your pharmacy with guidance by the pharmacist or if you have any concerns make an appointment with your GP.




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