My scalp’s so itchy I can’t even use a hairdryer. DR MARTIN SCURR answers your health questions
Question: For two years I’ve been plagued by a very itchy, sensitive scalp — even using a hairdryer is too much to bear. I also get painful flare-ups, during which it feels like someone is pulling my hair. I’m worried it’s a sign of a more serious problem.
Jennifer Davies, Crymych, Pembrokeshire.
Answer: It appears you have seborrhoeic dermatitis, a skin condition in which the scalp becomes red, itchy and flaky. Any areas of oily skin, such as the sides of the nose, eyebrows, ears, eyelids, and centre of the chest can also be affected.
The symptoms are thought to be caused by an overgrowth of Malassezia, a normally harmless fungi that lives on the skin, or by an over-reaction of the immune system to this fungi.
It’s very common — occurring in around one in 25 people — and similar to dandruff (which is actually a mild form of seborrhoeic dermatitis that causes flaking itchy skin, but without the sensitivity you also experience).
Seborrhoeic dermatitis is a skin condition in which the scalp becomes red, itchy and flaky (file image)
Nizoral, a medicated shampoo containing the antifungal ketoconazole, is often prescribed (and is also available over the counter) to reduce the growth of the yeast. Nizoral is usually effective and should be used twice a week for two to four weeks.
In severe cases, corticosteroid lotions and ointments that are rubbed into the scalp can dampen down inflammation.
But be aware that topically-applied steroids can lead to thinning of the skin, increased body hair, weight gain, muscle weakness, and other potential damaging responses — so don’t use them for more than a month.
You mention in your longer letter that you’ve tried Nizoral and topical steroids. So I wonder about your hair-washing regimen. You should wash your hair with something mild, such as baby shampoo, so as not to further irritate the scalp.
Or you could try Sachajuan shampoo, which contains the antifungals piroctone and climbazole, and salicylic acid. These eradicate the yeast and calm the inflammation and should be used once a day for a month and then once a week.
However maddening, be assured the itch is not a sign of anything serious.
You should wash your hair with something mild, such as baby shampoo, so as not to further irritate the scalp
IN MY VIEW … We can’t ignore the dangers of taking cannabis
Walk down a busy street or even stroll through a park and these days you stand a good chance of catching a waft of the sweet, tell-tale smell of cannabis.
While still illegal for recreational use, social tolerance for the drug seems to have grown, which gives me great concern. It’s just over a year since the law changed in Britain to allow — with due precautions — medical cannabis to be prescribed by doctors.
Unsurprisingly, the increased awareness of some known medical benefits, such as easing the muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis, has been a trigger for more people to access cannabis illicitly.
Write to Dr Scurr
To contact Dr Scurr with a health query, write to him at Good Health Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT or email [email protected] — including contact details.
Dr Scurr cannot enter into personal correspondence.
Replies should be taken in a general context and always consult a GP with any health worries.
A recent YouGov poll found more than a million people were using the drug, bought illegally, to treat an illness. But unlike with medical cannabis, which has been made to pharmaceutical standards, people do not know what they are buying.
The black- market cannabis user is at risk of consuming high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The best-known of the active chemicals in the cannabis plant, THC is a the most psychoactive, i.e. the one that makes you high and is linked to an increased risk of psychotic illnesses.
Consider, too, recent research from Boston University that revealed the risk of miscarriage is doubled when would-be fathers used cannabis at least once a week, compared to not using it at all.
Whether this is due to damage to sperm or passive cannabis smoking by the mother-to-be remains unclear. What is clear, is that illegal cannabis, whether used for recreational or medicinal purposes, is of unknown content, unknown quality and is inevitably unreliable and potentially dangerous.
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