What Are the Causes of Inflamed Scalp?

An inflamed scalp can be a sign of infection or irritation. It can also occur from a reaction to allergens on the scalp. The condition tends to localize to certain parts of the scalp, but it may cause widespread breakouts. Typically, an inflamed scalp forms with other signs and symptoms such as dry skin, scaling, rashes and itchiness. A health care provider can assist in diagnosing and treating individual causes of an inflamed scalp.

Scalp Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a chronic skin disease that causes rapid skin cell production and shedding. The condition occurs from an abnormal immune reaction that produces new skin cells in days rather than weeks. The accelerated skin cell turnover causes inflamed and itchy skin, red patches, scaling, dryness and pus-filled blisters in severe cases. Psoriasis can affect any area of the skin, but it most often affects the scalp, knees, elbows and lower back. At least half of all people who have psoriasis have it on their scalp, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. When psoriasis affects the scalp, it can cause mild scaling or severe eruptions that extend beyond the scalp.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic skin disorder that tends to affect areas where oil glands are most prominent. It occurs most often on the scalp, behind the ears, ear canals and eyebrows. Experts believe that seborrheic dermatitis manifests from over production of skin oils, hormones and irritations from a yeast called malessizia. The American Academy of Dermatology reports that the condition affects 3 to 5 percent of the population. Seborrheic dermatitis usually begins gradually, causing flaking and scaling of the scalp. As the condition progresses, it can cause redness, rashes, yellowish scaling and itching. No cure for seborrheic dermatitis currently exists, but prescribed medications and lifestyle changes can help control the symptoms.


Folliculitis occurs when bacteria, viruses or fungi infect the hair follicles. The hair follicle is an opening in the skin that contains the hair roots.. Common causes of folliculitis include injuries to the skin, friction from shaving, inflammatory skin conditions, excessive perspiration and any damage to the hair follicle. The condition occurs most often at the scalp, face, and thighs, but it can form on any part of the body where hair grows. Symptoms of folliculitis include inflammation, irritated and red hair follicles, rash, itching, pimples and pus in the hair follicle. Severe forms of folliculitis may produce scarring, cellulitis and destruction of the hair follicles that leads to permanent hair loss, notes MayoClinic.com.

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