Scabs are raised red or dark brown patches on the skin. They serve as a seal to wounds, blocking out bacteria as your body regenerates new skin cells and repairs blood vessels in the area. Once these repairs are made, the scab will fall off. Scabs on the scalp operate in the same manner. And like scabs on the body, they have numerous causes, which can make it difficult to self-diagnose your condition. However, understanding the possible causes and associated symptoms may help you and your physician reach a diagnosis and a treatment method sooner.
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Your scalp scabs may be the cause of eczema, or atopic dermatitis. Eczema is a skin condition marked by thick skin or scab-like raised bumps that may or may not leak fluid. You might also develop small red or brown colored patches, which can look like scabs. Your skin will also be extremely itchy; this may cause scabbing due to any excessive scratching. While eczema generally occurs on the arms and legs, it can appear anywhere on the body. The cause of eczema is unknown, but it is known to subside after random flare-ups. Treatment involves avoiding any possible irritant, such as harsh soaps, and over-the-counter or prescription anti-inflammatory creams. Your physician may recommend an oral medication for severe itching or open wounds from scratching.
Psoriasis may be causing scabs or scab-like lesions on your scalp. Psoriasis is a common skin condition caused by white blood cells that accidentally attack healthy skin cells. These cells build up on the surface of the skin, creating thick dandruff-like scales and dry, red patches. Psoriasis can be painful or it can be a simple cosmetic issue. Regardless, it is a long-term disease that ebbs and flows in its severity. Other symptoms of psoriasis include itching, burning and dry skin that may crack and bleed. Your treatment will depend on which type of psoriasis you have. However, if you suspect psoriasis, contact your doctor immediately for diagnosis and treatment. If you have already been diagnosed, contact your doctor if your condition worsens, becomes painful or interferes with daily activities.
Shingles may also be producing your scabs. Shingles is a painful, non-threatening viral infection that comes from the same virus that causes chicken pox. It is spread by contact with someone who has open shingles wounds, such as open blisters. After a bout with chicken pox, this virus goes dormant in your system and may reappear years later as shingles. Shingles is marked by red rashes and blisters. These blisters will burst and eventually crust over, lending a scab-like feel and appearance. You may also experience headaches, itching and fatigue. Shingles will usually heal itself within a few weeks. However, with anti-viral medicines, such as Valtrex and Famvir, you can speed recovery. You might also need prescription pain relievers for shingles-associated pain. Thus, consult your physician if you suspect shingles as a cause of your scalp scabs.
Scalp scabs can be attributed to other causes, such as contact dermatitis, a skin condition resulting from exposure to a skin irritant or allergen. Dandruff can also cause scabs, as the itchy sensation caused by the dandruff flakes can lead to excessive, consistent scratching of the scalp. Scalp ringworm can also produce lumpy lesions that look like scabs. Thus, it is best to contact a physician before any self-diagnosis or self-treatment.
Topical ointments may cause additional skin irritation. Symptoms of skin irritation, such as redness, rash and itchiness on the affected area, may also be a symptom of your underlying condition. Because of this, it can be hard to attribute your symptoms to their appropriate cause. Thus, it is best to consult your physician if you notice any changes to or exacerbation of these symptoms.