Symptom Checker: Symptoms & Signs Index
Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
The loss of skin cells from the scalp is a normal part of the life cycle of skin cells. However, excessive flaking of the scalp, or dandruff, is a common cosmetic problem experienced by millions of people. Dandruff is not contagious and is normally not a serious problem. Some cases of excessive dandruff accompanied by intense itching and patches of flaky skin on the face or elsewhere are actually a form of eczema referred to as seborrheic eczema.
Dandruff is believed to be related to a fungus known as malassezia (formerly termed pityrosporum) that lives on the scalp of most people. In some cases, overgrowth of the fungus results in the flakiness of the skin characteristic of dandruff. The reasons for the overgrowth of fungus are unclear but may be related to increased oil production, hormonal changes, stress, neurologic disorders such as Parkinson's disease, recovery from chronic conditions such as stroke or heart attack, suppression of the immune system, and infrequent shampooing. There is also some evidence that dandruff may run in families. Scalp flakiness may also be caused by psoriasis or other skin ailments or infections.
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Fauci, Anthony S., et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 17th ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2008.
Causes of Flaky Scalp
In This ArticleDandruff (Seborrhea) Article
- Dandruff facts
- What is dandruff (seborrhea)?
- What treatments are available for dandruff?
- What doesn't help dandruff?
- What over-the-counter products can help dandruff?
- If over-the-counter products don't work, what can the doctor prescribe for dandruff?
In This ArticleSunburn (Sun Poisoning) Article
- Sunburn and sun poisoning facts
- What is sunburn?
- Can sunburn cause permanent damage?
- What is UV light and where are UV rays most intense?
- Why does the skin tan after exposure to UV rays?
- What are the symptoms of sunburn?
- What are the symptoms of severe sunburn (sun poisoning)?
- Sunburn pictures
- What first-aid measures should be taken with sunburn?
- What is the treatment for sunburn?
- Are there any home remedies to treat sunburn?
- Is a follow-up visit with a physician necessary?
- Who is most susceptible to sunburn?
- Can diseases cause a heightened sensitivity to UV rays?
- Can medications increase sensitivity to sunburn?
- What kinds of skin cancer can UV rays cause?
- How can sunburn and skin cancer be prevented?
- How do sunscreens work?
- What is SPF?
- What is the best way to apply sunscreen?
- Do sunscreens expire?
- Can antioxidants protect against sunburn?
Other Causes of Flaky Scalp
- Changes in Weather or Humidity
- Cradle Cap
- Hair Care Products
- Infrequent Shampooing
- Scalp Folliculitis
- Tinea Capitis
Examples of Medications for Flaky Scalp
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