The irritation and pain caused from a sore scalp can be problematic for anyone. If you are suffering from a sore scalp there can be multiple reasons as to why it developed. A tender scalp can be the result of hairstyling, viral or bacterial infection, poor hygiene, and even headaches. There are several conditions that you can treat it on your own but certain conditions need proper medication.Before treating your scalp it’s important to speak with a medical professional to properly diagnose what’s causing your scalp pain. Symptoms of scalp conditions may seem very similar so in order to provide effective treatment your doctor needs to examine your scalp to ensure the right treatment.
Causes of Sore Scalp
1. Chemicals In Shampoo – Your shampoo may be the reason you’ve developed a sore scalp. A common ingredient used not only in shampoo but makeup and laundry detergent is sodium lauryl sulfate. Through multiple studies sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) has been shown to cause irritation of the skin, organ toxicity, neurotoxicity, and cancer. The risks associated with sodium lauryl sulfate are in relation to how often you are exposing yourself to it. If the shampoo and conditioners you are using have this ingredient try to find alternatives. Your scalp is part of your skin and crucial for your overall health.
2. Fungal Infestation – Ringworm is a skin infection caused by fungus not by a worm. Although ringworm can affect people of all ages it is common amongst children. There are different types of ringworm which different areas on the body. Ringworm of the scalp is tinea capitis. The infection is spread through contact with someone else by touch or sharing personal items like towels, brushes, clothes, etc. Typical symptoms of ringworm are inflamed skin, hair loss or bald patches of the infected area, itchy scalp, sores. Before you begin treatment for ringworm first you must disinfect or throw out any items that might spread the infection to someone else. Speak with a medical professional to have it diagnosed and to receive and medication. Ringworm can be treated with antifungal creams and shampoo.
3. Impetigo – Impetigo is a bacterial infection of the skin that can be caused by two different kinds of bacteria, staphylococcal (staph) bacteria or streptococcal (strep) bacteria. There are two types of impetigo, non-bullous impetigo and bullous impetigo. The symptoms of impetigo are the appearance of rashes, development of blisters, and sores which are filled with pus. Scratching the sores can spread the infection. Impetigo can also be spread by touch or through contact with the infected persons personal items (clothes, linens, towels, etc.) Impetigo is more common amongst children than adults. In order to treat a mild case of impetigo you can use a saline solution on the infected area. In a more serious case your doctor will prescribe an oral antibiotic.
4. Folliculitis – Folliculitis is an infection that affects the hair follicles. It can occur anywhere on the body where there is a hair follicle but it is most common on the face and scalp. Folliculitis can be caused by bacteria, fungus or yeast. Other causes of folliculitis are tight clothing that irritates the skin, products that can block your hair follicles (make-up, hair wax, etc.), and any wounds or skin injuries. The symptoms of folliculitis are the development of red bumps or pimples at the hair follicles. The pimples that form on their hair follicles are filled with pus and there is a likelihood of blood as well. To treat folliculitis you can try a solution of water and vinegar on the affected area, medicated shampoo, or an antibiotic may be prescribed by a doctor.
5. Shingles – Shingles is a disease caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. The name of the virus is varicella zoster. Another name for shingles is herpes zoster. The symptoms of shingles is a skin rash on your face, body or scalp. Shingles also causes a burning pain and itching in the affected area. Shingles only occur on one side of the body so if your scalp is infected it will not be on both sides. A scalp infection means there is a possibility of hair loss if you scratch or comb your hair too hard. In order to treat shingles you need to first make sure you visit your doctor to have it diagnosed properly. The most common treatment for shingles are anti-viral medication to deal with the infection and pain medication to handle the rash.
6. Chickenpox – One of the most common skin diseases that affect children is chicken pox. It is caused by a virus called varicella zoster which also causes shingles. Chickenpox is highly contagious as it is spread through the air or through touch. Signs of chickenpox usually appear days after exposure to the virus, anywhere from 10-14 days from initial contact. Symptoms of chickenpox are fever, rashes, headaches, aching muscles. The common red spots that develop start small and then begin to change to blisters which dry out and crust all over. Chickenpox can occur on the scalp and if it is scratched it can lead to an infected blister or a scars on your scalp.
7. Psoriasis – Psoriasis is a disease which causes the scalp to develop red patches as well as itchy white scales. The scales and patches may feel very sore. If you have psoriasis it might seem like you have dandruff due to shedding of excess skin. You may have the desire to itch the affected area of your scalp but it will cause additional harm. Speak with your doctor in order to make sure you have psoriasis and not a similar disease so that you can treat it effectively. There are several different kinds of treatments that are available such as topical creams, ointments, light therapy and prescription drugs. Researchers are still looking into which type of people get psoriasis but it occurs most often to those that have a family history of the ailment.
8. Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses strong medication to fight cancer cells. The drugs that help you fight cancer cells also fight other cells in your body that develop rapidly such as in your follicles. The common side effects of chemotherapy is that your hair will fall out which will begin a couple of weeks after the first treatment. Hair doesn’t just fall from the scalp but also on your body and face. During the time you lose your hair your scalp might feel itchy, sore, and tender. Take caution and tell your doctor or nurse if your scalp feels very sensitive.
9. Muscle Contraction Headache – A muscle contraction headache is a type of headache that causes the neck and scalp to feel tense and sore. There are several different causes of of muscle contraction headaches which are stress, depression, anxiety, or your posture (head positioning). The symptoms of a muscular contraction headache are not only the pain felt in the scalp and neck but nausea and as well. These type of headaches can happen at any age but are most common with adults. In order to treat muscle contraction headaches you can use aspirin or ibuprofen or your doctor should may prescribe pain medications for more intense headaches.
10. Excessive Scalp Oil – At the base of each of your hair follicles there is an oil producing gland called the sebaceous gland. This gland produces sebum (natural oil) which helps to keep your scalp and hair in good condition. If the body over produces sebum and it is not managed with proper care it can lead to inflammation, flaking skin, itchiness, and soreness. There are multiple conditions that arise from oily scalp such as seborrhea, seborrheic dermatitis, seborrhea oleosa, and cradle cap. The best way to prevent your scalp from having too much sebum is by using the right shampoo. Shampoos with salicylic acid (also useful to fight scalp acne), coal tar, and zinc pyrithione are effective ingredients that will help keep your scalp in good condition. Along with the use of a suitable shampoo make use of a good conditioner to help your scalp with any irritation and redness.
11. Contact Dermatitis – Contact dermatitis is a skin condition where your skin may become sore, inflamed, or red when it comes in contact with something. There are many possible causes of contact dermatitis such as: soaps, shampoos, poison ivy, fabrics, fragrances, hair dyes. While you may not see immediate signs of an allergy if you are in contact with the allergen for the first time, you may see a rash develop if in contact again. Typical symptoms of contact dermatitis are a red rash on the skin that is affected, an itching and burning sensation on the rash, and a painful feeling from the rash. In order to treat this condition wash away any trace of the allergen with water and use a corticosteroid cream to handle any inflammation. If you continue to feel pain speak with your doctor right away to have it properly diagnosed and treated.
12. Hair Styling – Choices in hair style can cause you to feel a sore scalp, especially if you have a tight pony tail. For those that wear their pony tail high and tight your scalp will feel more pain versus low and loose. The problem with a tight ponytail is that it pulls on the hair strands which creates extra tension making the scalp feel sore. In order to remedy the scalp pain wear your hair in a looser style and massage your scalp occasionally to make sure you have proper blood flow and circulation.
13. Hair Transplant - A hair transplant is when a surgeon removes hair from an area of the scalp dense with hair to a bald area. Those suffering from alopecia opt to have this procedure to deal with hair loss. After having a hair transplant you may experience bleeding, folliculitis, itching, swelling, soreness, temporary loss of transplanted hair. Sore scalp is very common after surgery and you may be taking pain medications to deal with it. In order to keep the growth of new hair your doctor will prescribe Propecia. Another way to maintain your hair and improve growth is to apply minoxidil to the scalp.
Treatment of Sore Scalp
After reviewing the multiple causes of a sore scalp its clear that you should speak with a medical professional to help you. Due to the similarity of several conditions a medical professional will help you have a clear idea of what is ailing you. Do not avoid sore scalp treatment assuming it will go away on its own because it can be more than nuisance. By treating sore scalp early you will avoid the long term complications that can arise by ignoring symptoms.