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There are a number of reasons why you may experience an itchy scalp. The most common culprit is dandruff, but other conditions could also leave you scratching your head.

Dandruff is quite common, and although it isn’t serious, it can be uncomfortable, embarrassing and sometimes difficult to treat.

“Dandruff is linked to the overgrowth and/or exuberant reaction to yeast on your scalp,” explains Dr. David Weinstein, a dermatologist at UCF Health. “This causes the itching and flaking of the scalp. Some people are more prone to dandruff than others.”

The solution for most cases is an over-the-counter anti-dandruff shampoo containing selenium sulfide or zinc pyrithione. For more serious cases, you may need a prescription-strength shampoo or cream. See your doctor if you’ve tried self-care without success or if the itchy spots are ever sore to the touch.

Another possible cause of itchy scalp is psoriasis. This inflammatory disease causes red raised scaly patches on the skin or scalp and is linked to your genetics. If someone in your family has psoriasis, you are more likely to develop it. The first line of treatment for psoriasis of the scalp is over-the-counter shampoos containing coal tar or salicylic acid. If those don’t work, see your doctor for a prescription for something stronger.

Both of these conditions are likely to linger for the long term. You may need repeat treatments before the symptoms go away, and even when they do, they are likely to return later.

A few words of caution: if you ever notice your hair falling out at the area of a rash, see a doctor. This could be ringworm of the scalp and it requires an oral anti-fungal to cure it. You should also rule out the possibility of lice as the cause for your itchy scalp. Although lice is often seen as a childhood condition, adults are just as likely to be affected.

Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus, and the newest one in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.

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