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Itchy scaly scalp

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I have a very scaly scalp and scabs. Since I have Raynaud's as part of my Crest Syndrome, I was wondering if anyone else had similar problems and what they do about them. My skin is very tight and can become very itchy, leading me to scratching. Any suggestions?

Heather G

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Hi Heather,


I don't remember ever hearing anyone with Raynaud's mentioning the scalp problems, but that doesn't mean anything at all. Have you talked to a doctor about it? There are a lot of things that can cause the itching and scaling and if you are like me, if you itch, you scratch. And sometimes, the more you scratch, the more you itch. The scratching could well be the cause of the scabs. I think if it were me, I'd see my primary care physician about it first or maybe see a dermatologist.


I had to train myself not to scratch my shins until they bled when they were going through the itchy phase. Every time I found myself about to scratch I would find some kind of displacement activity. After a couple of days of this, I had caught up with my housework, organized my cupboards and drawers, brushed the poor dogs until they ran when they saw me coming with the brush in my hand. It worked though!


I hope you get some relief soon. Best wishes,

Jeannie McClelland

(Retired) ISN Director of Support Services

(Retired) ISN Sclero Forums Manager

(Retired) ISN Blog Manager

(Retired) ISN Assistant News Guide

(Retired) ISN Artist

International Scleroderma Network

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Hi Heather,

I, too, have CREST and I also have an itchy,scaley, scabby scalp! Are you by chance on Prednisone or another immune supresant? I am on Prednisone, which unfortunately, opens one up to catching all sorts of things. What I caught or got was Psoriasis. I have been to a skin doctor and she gave me a prescription for a head treatment, as well as a prescription shampoo. These things help, but it seems to get better and then worse gain. I have been fighting this for over a year now.

While taking Prednisone, I also once got a scalp fungus and had to take a pill for that. Fortunately, that cleared up pretty quickly!

My advice would be see a doctor right away so it doesn't get worse, whatever it is! Your primary care doctor might treat it or she might send you to a skin specialist, as mine did.

I don't think this is especially related to CREST, but it's related to Prednisone, which is related to CREST -- in my case!

Mary in Texas

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I too have been itching on my head. I sometimes feel like something is crawling on my head but there isn't. I have been out in the sun and swimming so it could be from that. I have been using a conditioner after I get out of the pool to protect my hair. I just started doing this so I will post if it helps.


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Hi Heather,


Please keep in mind that I'm not a doctor, I have no medical training at all, and that what works for a single person doesn't mean it will work for anyone else.


I had itchy scaly scalp with open sores for many years. My doctors would just say it was due to connective tissue disease, and prescribe things for it. Later I was diagnosed with psoriasis, and I thought that might also explain the head sores, too. But to my surprise, all my head sores cleared up within a few days of eliminating all gluten and casein (wheat and dairy and all by-products) from my diet. And they returned a year later, accompanied by a fresh patch of tightened skin, within a few days, when I reintroduced those foods. My dermatologist now thinks the head sores more likely is/was dermatitis herpetiformis, which is a reaction to gluten that affects the skin.


I'm on a trial of a new enzyme now which theoretically allows me to eat anything, provided I remember to take a pill with every meal. A few times I've had the scalp itchiness start up but it has then calmed down. I know a full-blown case of head sores (or skin tightening, of course) would be enough for me to backtrack to the diet remedy alone. But it is delightful and so much more socially acceptable to be able to eat anything, so I am hopeful this continues to apparently suffice for me. There is some sort of relationship between scleroderma and gluten sensitivity, so we have a section on our main site about that, Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity.


I'd recommend that you try to see a dermatologist for your head sores. Try to find out what it is, which can help identify an effective treatment. I can tell you though that I used pricey special shampoos and steroid creams and other lotions for many years, to no avail. The only thing it did was give me a false sense that I was "treating" it while the underlying cause was never addressed.


For people who haven't had this, I don't think you can even imagine the amount of emotional energy it drains, as the constant itch compels you to always be thinking, I am NOT going to scratch my head, now what was it that person just said? And then in an unaware moment, like in the middle of the night or while absorbed in a good book, you find that your hand drifts up to scratch anyway. So after awhile I was thinking it must really be just a nervous habit of mine. Imagine my surprise that when the itch magically evaporated, I never had to squelch the urge to scratch the itch; the itch was gone!


I'm hoping you find relief soon, Heather.

Warm Hugs,


Shelley Ensz

Founder and President

International Scleroderma Network (ISN)

Hotline and Donations: 1-800-564-7099


The most important thing in the world to know about scleroderma is sclero.org.

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