Medications for Eczema on the Scalp

Eczema is a type of skin condition or dermatitis that affects many people in the United States. Eczema of the scalp is diagnosed as seborrheic dermatitis and presents with common signs and symptoms of redness, itchiness, flaky dandruff, irritation and scaly, dry patches. In severe cases of scalp eczema, pain from sores and lesions and pus-filled spots from secondary infections caused by scratching can be a chief complaint. There are several types of medications available on the market that can be used to treat scalp eczema, such as corticosteroids and medicated shampoos.

Eczema relief can be found in a bottle of medicated shampoo used to treat scalp seborrheic dermatitis. Credit: CandyBox Images/iStock/Getty Images

Topical Steroid Treatments

Topical corticosteroids are used to treat scalp eczema. Steroids are available in various strengths varying from low to high potency. Common over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams or ointments are used for mild scalp irritation and rashes. These drugs are available as .5 percent or 1 percent potency. Mid-potency and high potency topical steroids are available only as prescription medications. Betamethasone dipropionate and flurandrenolide come in cream and lotion formulations. Clobetasol propionate is usually used for severe cases of scalp eczema and only prescribed for short-term two-week treatment.

Systemic Corticosteroids Medications

Systemic corticosteroids are given as oral medications or as injectables. These medications have immediate effects once they enter the blood circulatory system and are only prescribed for severe cases of scalp eczema where signs of secondary infections and open rash sores are present. Common drugs are prednisone, hydrocortisone, methylprednisolone and prednisolon. To reduce the risks of potential side effects and long-tern complications, systemic steroids are strictly supervised and managed under the control of a board certified clinician.

Non-Steroid Imunosuppressants

Two non-steroid immunosuppressant medications are used for treating scalp dermatitis. The FDA has approved the use of tacrolimus and pimecrolimus to treat mild to severe cases. This class of drugs belongs to a group of calcineurin inhibitors. They act to interfere and inhibit the body's natural inflammation reactions. Reducing the potential for harmful side effects and complications from long-term use of steroids is a positive benefit for prescribing these medications to treat scalp dermatitis.

Medicated Shampoos and Lotions

Commercial over-the-counter medicated shampoos or hair lotions can be used to treat mild scalp eczema. These shampoos contain various active ingredients, such as tar or salicylic acids. Selenium, ciclopirox, zinc or ketoconazole shampoos are also effective drugs to treat the condition. Daily washing of the scalp and hair with medicated shampoos can help to reduce the itchiness and irritation.

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