Scalp itchiness has been linked to a range of factors, some of which you might not expect:

- Skin conditions including dandruff, seborrhoeic dermatitis and scalp psoriasis

- Other medical conditions such as diabetes, migraines and anxiety

- Scarring alopecia and hair loss due to frequent heat styling 

- Adverse reactions to allergens, irritants and medications

- Head lice

Skin Conditions

A range of skin conditions have scalp itchiness as a symptom. Perhaps the most widely-recognised is dandruff. If you have dandruff you may experience itchiness due to how your body responds to a natural fungus called malassezia. This is also the case for seborrhoeic dermatitis. Psoriasis, a chronic auto-immune condition, can also be responsible for itchiness. It’s estimated between 70-90% of sufferers experience this symptom, which can be attributed to the inflammatory nature of the condition.

Medical Conditions

Other medical conditions can also play a part in scalp itchiness. Diabetes, for example, can create localised itching. Sometimes this can be down to nerve damage in the outer layers of skin. Other times, health complications such as diabetic polyneuropathy or peripheral neuropathy are behind the itching. Anxiety is also thought to cause itching for some people, as the body’s stress response can impact the nervous system and lead to sensory symptoms. If you suffer from migraines and have sensitivity in the scalp area, this could lead to feelings of itchiness as well.

Hair Loss

Certain forms of alopecia have been known to be accompanied by itching. Scarring alopecias lead to scar tissue replacing the hair follicles and the progressive types are generally linked to itchiness. Hair loss due to excessive styling with heat, sometimes referred to as follicular degeneration syndrome, is also thought to cause some itching.

Adverse Reactions

It’s possible for reactions with allergens, irritants and medications to cause itching of the scalp. Contact dermatitis occurs when the skin comes into direct contact with a substance and reacts with it, leading to a red, itchy rash. Some medications are believed to cause itchy skin too, including treatments for gout, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart rhythm problems amongst others.

Head Lice

Itchiness of the scalp, ears and neck is the main symptom of head lice, although the area may not become itchy straight away. Head lice typically affect young children and their families, spreading by contact. The itching stems from the skin’s reaction to the bites experienced when head lice are present and some people are more sensitive than others.

If your scalp is itchy, understanding what’s behind the itch can help you to manage it. There are lots of resources available online, but the best source of information is speaking to your GP. Polytar Scalp Shampoo can be used to alleviate itching associated with conditions like psoriasis, seborrhoeic dermatitis and eczema. You can find out more below.

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