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Inflammation of the scalp: An abundance of triggers for the same clinical picture
Despite very similar symptoms of the inflamed scalp, the causes are often fundamentally different. Typical symptoms of scalp inflammation include:
- Itching and possibly pain,
- Skin redness and swelling,
- other skin irritations such as pimples and pus pustules,
- Bleeding and scab formation
- as well as sometimes hair loss
- and scarring.
In addition to bacterial pathogens and skin fungi, allergies, various skin diseases and parasites are also possible triggers. Therefore, the most important prerequisite for successful therapy is the fastest possible diagnosis of the underlying disease in the specific case.
Timely detected scalp infections can usually be treated successfully. Natural medicine also offers numerous treatment options to support therapy and prophylaxis.
The functions of the scalp
It is fundamentally important for our well-being - a healthy scalp. Because as the foundation for our hair on the head, it shapes our daily appearance for everyone to see. In addition, with its numerous sweat and sebum glands, it plays an important role in the body's temperature and fluid balance and, thanks to its sensitive surface, provides it with a wealth of information about the current environmental conditions. Her thick coat protects her head from strong sunlight as well as from the violent cold.
Scalp out of balance - possible causes
Even if the symptoms of scalp inflammation are the same - the triggers can be of various types. The following overview shows how bacteria and skin fungi as well as chemical and mechanical stimuli, allergens, parasites and other diseases can unbalance the scalp.
Symptoms early on
It becomes clearly recognizable when the scalp is out of balance. Because quite harmless starting with dandruff and itching of the head, a tangible inflammation with painful swelling and redness can develop in a short time. If you do not take these early recognizable and unmistakable symptoms seriously, a scalp infection can quickly penetrate from the epidermis into the underlying dermis and further into the subcutis. This process can be significantly accelerated by violent scratching. If one intervenes too late in this process, in addition to unsightly scars, more or less severe hair loss is sometimes possible.
Diverse microflora on the skin surface
Like our entire skin surface, the scalp is also populated with a diverse microflora of bacteria and skin fungi - around 1,000 to 100,000 microorganisms per square millimeter - with which we get along very well. If the normal composition of this microbiome is out of balance for a variety of reasons, there may be problems. Because if the body's own microorganisms suddenly multiply excessively and they or foreign microorganisms penetrate the scalp through the smallest of injuries, this can quickly lead to inflammation of the scalp. Most often caused by bacteria is hair follicle inflammation (folliculitis), which is associated with redness and often with purulent pustules. And sometimes other pathogens such as herpes viruses can also be active.
Skin fungi of humans and animals
Various skin fungi can also cause scalp inflammation. Filamentous fungi are examples of such fungal diseases of the skin (dermatomycoses). Trichophyton is particularly active in the area of the scalp, which spreads in the cornea and hair follicles and can migrate into the surrounding connective tissue. It can also spread to the whiskers and nails. The skin fungus Microsporum canis is particularly common in cats, but also in dogs, rabbits and guinea pigs. It can also be transmitted from infested wild and domestic animals to humans and then from humans to humans. In addition to inflammation of the scalp, it can also lead to hair loss, for example.
When yeasts cause illness
The skin fungi that trigger skin infections in humans also include various yeasts, such as candida and the malassia that feeds on the secretion of the sebaceous glands. They are a normal part of the human scalp flora, but can cause illness under certain conditions, under which they multiply excessively. For example, they can cause seborrheic eczema, which is sometimes associated with severe itching. Scratching the sick people on the head and thereby injuring the scalp creates the ideal conditions for the penetration of other pathogenic germs and, if necessary, massive scalp infections.
Numerous other triggers
In addition to microorganisms and parasites, there are a variety of other triggers for scalp inflammation. Various play an important role here Ingredients from washing, care and styling agents as well as from Hairdressing preparationswhich, when used very intensively, can trigger allergies in many people. To hard combs and too hot blow-drying also overuse the scalp and often lead to micro-injuries, which can become the starting point for scalp inflammation. Self severe stress can become the trigger. And sometimes there are other skin diseases such as psoriasis or eczema in neurodermatitis that are the starting point for scalp inflammation.
Sometimes parasites are also active
After all, parasites also ensure a "lively" scalp. Kindergarten, school and after-school children are particularly at risk from head lice. These two to four millimeter flightless insects, visible to the naked eye, are harmless, but unpleasant and disgusting. They can be transmitted to other people through close scalp contact. For this reason and also because scalp infections can be provoked by scratching, a head lice infestation, which by the way has nothing to do with poor hygiene and can affect everyone, should be done as quickly as possible.
Treatment of scalp inflammation: who helps in the specific case
In most cases of scalp inflammation, the general practitioner is the optimal address. But sometimes, like for example parasites with head lice, going to the pharmacy can help.
Consultation with a doctor for scalp infections is advised
The treatment of scalp infections based on such different triggers is a great challenge. Because the symptoms that are almost the same for practically all scalp infections, such as violent itching, swelling, redness and inflammation, and the associated pain require very different therapeutic approaches depending on the trigger behind them. In order to begin targeted therapy, it is therefore of fundamental importance to recognize as quickly as possible which underlying illness is present in the specific case. And given the large number of possible triggers, this is often a very difficult task even for very experienced doctors. Apart from a few typical clinical pictures, which can be recognized at first glance, it requires a careful diagnosis. That is why the treatment of scalp infections should be given to a dermatologist as early as possible.
Careful diagnosis is crucial
In case of doubt, only doctors have the necessary diagnostic options. Even if, based on their experience, they already recognize from various symptoms what could be the cause of the disease, the assumptions are supported by targeted examinations. This includes examinations of blood, secretions and smears by a laboratory, the creation of cultures and often skin, hair and allergy tests. Even if this careful diagnosis takes some time, you should take your time and, until the diagnosis results are available, limit yourself to treating the unpleasant side effects of scalp inflammation, such as pain. Because premature untargeted therapy with the wrong medication not only shoots into space, but often also creates undesirable side effects. These include, for example, resistance due to the fact that antibiotics, which are unfortunately still far too widespread, are used without hesitation.
Therapy: the more targeted, the more promising
Basically, most scalp infections are curable. The success of the therapies used for this depends crucially on how targeted the possible treatment methods are used.
Give time to the body's defenses
In addition, you should allow the body enough time to deal with the disease with its own defense mechanisms. Because the inflammation with the accompanying symptoms such as itching, swelling, redness and pain is nothing more than the response of the body's immune system to invaders of all kinds, which can harm it. The body's defense systems very often manage to defeat these intruders and other triggers, so that therapy that supports the body's defense can sometimes even be dispensed with.
Use medication as specifically as possible
Sometimes, however, it is appropriate to support the body's immune response by taking appropriate medication. As soon as the triggers of a scalp ignition are recognized and you know which “enemy” needs to be fought, the medication displayed for this can be used very specifically. The most effective pathogen-specific antibiotics are then usually used against bacterial pathogens. And this both through medication to be taken (orally) and with locally effective agents. In some cases, antibiotic-free preparations can also be used.
The appropriate antifungals are given against skin fungi, which are mostly used locally as ointments, tinctures, shampoos and rinses. Sometimes, as for example with Microsporum, a combination therapy of oral agents against the fungi in skin and hair follicles and locally effective agents against the fungal spores on the hair is appropriate. In short, there is no generally effective universal therapy against scalp infections caused by bacterial pathogens and the various skin fungi, but one must always take a targeted and pathogen-specific approach. These treatments can be supported by anti-inflammatory agents as well as locally used preparations that promote the healing process.
Never scratch, even if it is itching so hard
Such drugs are also used to treat scalp infections that are not caused by microorganisms. In order to promote the healing process here, there is a consequent avoidance of care and hairdressing products with recognized allergens. In addition, mechanical stimuli recognized as triggers by combs that are too hard, blow-drying too hot and exposure to excessive sunlight must be avoided. And a very important basic rule for every type of headache inflammation is: never scratch, even if the scalp is itchy. Because the mini-cracks in the scalp caused by scratching are a real gateway for the penetration and spread of all types of pathogens and many inflammatory complications caused by them.
Therapy-supporting natural medicine
Numerous natural medicine remedies can also be used to support therapy. Herbs such as club moss, chamomile, lavender, calendula, sage and also pansies can be used externally as an envelope, wash, rinse, bath or ointment and internally as tea. Cold head wraps and possibly rinsing with vinegar water can also be helpful. However, the effectiveness of such measures depends heavily on the underlying disease that triggered scalp inflammation. Therefore, they should always be coordinated with the treating doctor. This also applies to scalp-friendly nutrition with longer-lasting therapies. This diet should be as basic as possible and above all contain vitamins from the B group, especially vitamin B12.
A visit to the pharmacy is sufficient for head lice
The resources required for head lice infestation and detailed instructions for their use can be obtained over the counter in any pharmacy. After a single treatment, the unpleasant subtenants on the scalp are largely eliminated. And if you repeat the treatment after a week, the problem should be solved. By the way, pets are at risk from head lice, and you don't have to or should treat them, because most head lice remedies are extremely dangerous for pets. If, despite an intensive search for head lice, no head lice can be found, it should be considered as a possible parasite now also possible itch mites - especially if the itching also affects other parts of the body.
Prophylaxis is not always easy
Can one prevent the development of scalp infections in view of the multitude of possible triggers? Certainly not with a general approach. And sometimes not at all, such as in the case of parasite infestation. Still, following some basic rules of care, hygiene, and nutrition can help reduce the risk here and there.
Avoid unnecessary injuries and stimuli
Mini-scalp injuries are always a gateway for pathogens to enter the scalp. Therefore, you should always take care to avoid unnecessary injuries to the scalp. In concrete terms, this means neither combing the hair with combs that are too hard, nor blow-drying it too hot, nor exposing it to intense sunlight by wearing light headgear. For daily hair care, mild care products without fragrances and preservatives are recommended. This applies in particular to the widespread hair styling preparations and some hairdressing preparations for dyeing, bleaching and hairdressing.
Exaggerated hygiene can harm you
One should also accept that in many cases it is absolutely not necessary to wash the hair daily or even several times a day. Because as important as regular hair and scalp care is - less can sometimes do more. It should not be forgotten that each washing, depending on the agents used, the water temperature and the duration of washing, unbalances the natural scalp flora as well as the activity of the numerous sebaceous glands and sometimes dries out the scalp unnecessarily. Then it can happen again and again that the body has problems restoring its natural balance or triggers changes in the composition of the scalp flora.
Care in dealing with stray animals
Finally, with a view to the skin fungi native to animals that can trigger scalp infections, careful handling of many animals is recommended. This mainly includes cats, but also dogs, rabbits, rabbits and guinea pigs. The risk of infection is particularly great if you get too close to stray cats and dogs in southern Mediterranean countries. This applies not only to people, but also, for example, to pets that are taken on vacation. And if children in particular have become infected, then the pets and cuddly toys that have stayed at home are also at risk. Therefore, you should always keep an eye on them in case of skin fungal diseases of the scalp.
Scalp friendly diet
The development of scalp infections can also be influenced by diet. One problem is above all an insufficient supply of the eight B vitamins that are involved in the metabolism, of which several are also responsible for healthy skin. These vitamins have to be supplied to the body with food because, with the exception of vitamin B3, it cannot produce them itself. For a sufficient supply of vitamins of the B group, both numerous plant and animal foods are required. This can lead to significant deficiency symptoms with only a vegan diet. Important vegetable suppliers for B vitamins include vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, spinach as well as lettuce, lamb's lettuce and endive, but also lentils, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, bananas and wheat germ. The animal B-vitamin suppliers include veal, beef, liver, chicken and turkey as well as eggs, mussels, fatty fish such as herring and mackerel and various soft cheeses.
Conclusion: scalp inflammation is not the same as scalp inflammation
Inflammation of the scalp and scalp inflammation can be completely different diseases despite the same symptoms, so that a timely diagnosis of the underlying disease is essential for targeted therapy. And with a few exceptions, scalp infections are curable. (ivd)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
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