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Painful Bumps on the Scalp

Painful bumps on the scalp is a symptom of a disease or infection affecting the scalp's skin. Read this HealthHearty article to get a brief idea about the key causes of painful bumps on scalp and their treatment options.
Bidisha Mukherjee
Last Updated: Mar 19, 2018
Painful bumps on the scalp's surface is something that none of us want. These bumps hurt when you touch them with your fingertips. The pain gets aggravated further while combing your hair. They have different characteristics, depending on what caused them. Some are excessively itchy, whereas others may have pus filled up in them. When these bumps burst, it may cause bleeding and a scab may form on its surface. The worst part of any painful bump on the scalp is that it can scar the skin tissues and halt hair growth on the damaged spot. Thus, it can cause permanent loss of hair.
Some of the common causes of this problem are discussed below:
Ringworm: This is a fungal infection and is also known as tinea capitis. When this fungus grows on the scalp, red bumps appear on its surface which is round in shape and causes excessive itching. Some of these bumps may get filled up with pus. It can cause hair loss in the affected part of the scalp.
Scalp Folliculitis: This is a bacterial infection where the hair follicles are attacked. In fact, the bumps due to scalp folliculitis result from inflammation of hair follicles. These bumps are quite large in size and are pus-filled. It causes reddening and inflammation in the skin around the bump. The infection-causing bacteria attacks the hair follicle when it is damaged due to some external factors.
Contact Dermatitis: This occurs when the scalp skin is exposed to some kind of irritants or allergens. In this condition, the skin surface gets irritated and inflamed. This kind of skin reaction is often triggered by direct contact with some harsh chemicals or ingestion of some food or medicines. As a result, red, itchy, and painful blisters appear on it. These bumps are usually quite large in size. Sometimes, several small bumps on the scalp cluster together and appear as large bumps.
Epidermal Cysts: These cysts can be identified as hard lumps under the skin's surface that discharge white secretions. These are formed due to blockage or damage in the hair follicles. These inflamed
lumps become red and are tender to touch. The painful symptoms are not confined to the bumps, and can be felt on the inflamed skin surrounding it.
Other Causes: Sore bumps on the scalp which are red in color can be due to scalp psoriasis. A person suffering from chickenpox, a contagious viral disease, gets blister-like bumps on the scalp as well as on other parts of the body. In some very rare cases, painful bumps that grow on the scalp and neck could be cancerous. It is a specific type of skin cancer named melanoma. A bump on the scalp which is malignant in nature has a different characteristic from non-cancerous bumps. In this condition, the shape, size, and color of the bumps changes from time to time.
Sore bumps on the scalp have to be treated by a dermatologist. There are different options of treatment and it largely depends on the cause. Let us first discuss the treatment for ringworm infection. As it is a fungal infection, antifungal shampoos has to be applied on the scalp. Along with that, oral antifungal medicines are given to cure it from within.
Then comes scalp folliculitis, which happens to be a bacterial skin infection and requires oral antibiotic medicines. Contact dermatitis is treated externally only. Regular use of medicated shampoo and topical application of medicated ointments can reduce the skin irritation and inflammation.
The treatment for epidermal cysts involves use of steroid injections to bring down the inflammation. However, if it does not work, then doctors drain out the fluid from it by surgical means. In some cases where the cyst is bothering the patient quite a lot, they may remove the cyst completely with the aid of surgery.
Scalp psoriasis treatment is the most difficult and has to be continued for a long time. Topical treatments with coal tar shampoos and salicylic acid are highly effective for this purpose. Other patients may require steroid creams and oral medicines as well.
When you have painful bumps on the scalp, comb and brush your hair carefully so that you do not get hurt. Even if it causes a lot of itching, do not scratch the scalp. Persistent scratching can lead to a secondary skin infection which is going to be more bothersome. You should not tie your hair too tightly as it can aggravate the pain. Most importantly, do not use any hair care products that have strong chemicals in them.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.