How does a doctor tell the difference between scalp psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp?

Answer From Lawrence E. Gibson, M.D.

Your doctor can usually tell whether you have scalp psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis or both based on an examination of your skin, scalp and nails.

Scalp psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis are common conditions that affect the scalp. In addition, they share some similar signs and symptoms, such as red, scaly skin.

Most often, the scales of psoriasis are thicker and somewhat drier in appearance than are the scales of seborrheic dermatitis. Psoriasis has more of a tendency to extend beyond the hairline. In addition, psoriasis usually affects more than one area of the body. If you have scalp psoriasis, you may also have mild psoriasis on your elbows, knees, hands or feet or may notice subtle nail changes, such as pitting.

Compare signs and symptoms

Scalp psoriasis

  • Red skin covered with flakes and silvery scales
  • Patches that may extend beyond the hairline or appear on other parts of the body
  • Itching or soreness

Seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp

  • Red skin covered with greasy-looking white or yellowish scales
  • Skin flakes (dandruff) that may attach to the hair shaft
  • Possibly itching

Scalp psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp share some similar treatments, including medicated shampoos and topical corticosteroid or antifungal solutions. Scalp psoriasis is often persistent and more difficult to treat than is seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp. Additional treatments, such as phototherapy, may be required to bring psoriasis under better control.

Nov. 03, 2017 See more Expert Answers

See also

  1. 6 ways to manage itchy skin when you have psoriasis
  2. Arthritis
  3. Arthritis pain: Do's and don'ts
  4. Botox injections: Can they relieve arthritis pain?
  5. Can arthritis pain medications be harmful?
  6. Chapped lips: What's the best remedy?
  7. Dry skin
  8. Ease stress to reduce your psoriasis flares
  9. Exercising with arthritis
  10. Ground flaxseed
  11. Gluten sensitivity and psoriasis: What's the connection?
  12. How to heal cracked heels
  13. How to heal cracked skin at thumb tip
  14. Living better with psoriasis
  15. Psoriasis-related health risks
  16. Mayo Clinic Minute: Fingernails are clues to your health
  17. Mayo Clinic Minute: Moisturizer tips from a dermatologist
  18. Moisturizers: Options for softer skin
  19. MSM for arthritis pain: Is it safe?
  20. nail psoriasis
  21. Photodynamic therapy
  22. Prednisone risks, benefits
  23. Pregnancy and breast-feeding with psoriasis
  24. Psoriasis
  25. Psoriasis and clinical trials
  26. Psoriasis and intimacy
  27. Psoriasis and your self-esteem
  28. Psoriasis diet: Can changing your diet treat psoriasis?
  29. Identifying psoriasis triggers
  30. Psoriasis: Get the most out of your treatment
  31. Psoriasis: How can I protect my skin during a workout?
  32. Fish oil supplements
  33. Psoriasis treatment options
  34. Psoriasis: What if I get psoriatic arthritis, too?
  35. Psoriasis: What to share with your doctor
  36. Relaxation techniques
  37. Self-esteem check
  38. Skin biopsy
  39. Skin care tips
  40. Skip flavored lip balm
  41. How to trim thickened toenails
  42. Slide show: 5 ways to thrive with psoriasis through the holidays
  43. Slide show: Caring for your skin when you have psoriasis
  44. Hand exercises for people with arthritis
  45. Joint protection
  46. Types of psoriasis
  47. Common skin rashes
  48. Stress management
  49. Time your lotions right
  50. Ward off dry skin
  51. Water exercise
  52. Alternative psoriasis treatments
  53. What are the risks of vaccinations for people living with psoriasis?
  54. What's the best way to manage scalp psoriasis?
  55. White patch on skin: A cause for concern?
  56. Yucca: Can it relieve arthritis pain?