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
- 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.
Oct. 02, 2020
From Mayo Clinic to your inbox
Sign up for free, and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips and current health topics, like COVID-19, plus expertise on managing health.
ErrorEmail field is required
ErrorInclude a valid email address
To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which
information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with
other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could
include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected
health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health
information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of
privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on
the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.
Thank you for subscribing
Our Housecall e-newsletter will keep you up-to-date on the latest health information.
Sorry something went wrong with your subscription
Please, try again in a couple of minutes
See more Expert Answers
- Sasseville D. Seborrheic dermatitis in adolescents and adults. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Sept. 5, 2017.
- Papadakis MA, et al., eds. Dermatologic disorders. In: Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment 2017. 56th ed. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill Education; 2017. http://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com. Accessed Sept. 5, 2017.
- Ferri FF. Seborrheic dermatitis (SD). In: Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2018. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2018. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Sept. 5, 2017.
- Bolognia JL, et al. Other eczematous eruptions. In: Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Sept. 5, 2017.