Information for Patients
Dandruff, Cradle Cap, and Other Scalp Conditions
Your scalp is the skin on the top of your head. Unless you have hair loss, hair grows on your scalp. Different skin problems can affect your scalp.
Dandruff is a flaking of the skin. The flakes are yellow or white. Dandruff may make your scalp feel itchy. It usually starts after puberty, and is more common in men. Dandruff is usually a symptom of seborrheic dermatitis, or seborrhea. It is a skin condition that can also cause redness and irritation of the skin.
Most of the time, using a dandruff shampoo can help control your dandruff. If that does not work, contact your health care provider.
There is a type of seborrheic dermatitis that babies can get. It is called cradle cap. It usually lasts a few months, and then goes away on its own. Besides the scalp, it can sometimes affect other parts of the body, such as the eyelids, armpits, groin, and ears. Normally, washing your baby's hair every day with a mild shampoo and gently rubbing their scalp with your fingers or a soft brush can help. For severe cases, your health care provider may give you a prescription shampoo or cream to use.
Other problems that can affect the scalp include
- Scalp ringworm, a fungal infection that causes itchy, red patches on your head. It can also leave bald spots. It usually affects children.
- Scalp psoriasis, which causes itchy or sore patches of thick, red skin with silvery scales. About half of the people with psoriasis have it on their scalp.
Tinea is the name of a group of diseases caused by a fungus. Types of tinea include ringworm, athlete's foot and jock itch. These infections are usually not serious, but they can be uncomfortable. You can get them by touching an infected person, from damp surfaces such as shower floors, or even from a pet.
Symptoms depend on the affected area of the body:
- Ringworm is a red skin rash that forms a ring around normal-looking skin. A worm doesn't cause it.
- Scalp ringworm causes itchy, red patches on your head. It can leave bald spots. It usually affects children.
- Athlete's foot causes itching, burning and cracked skin between your toes.
- Jock itch causes an itchy, burning rash in your groin area.
Over-the-counter creams and powders will get rid of many tinea infections, particularly athlete's foot and jock itch. Other cases require prescription medicine.