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Discover What Causes Painful Sore Spots on the Scalp

Sores on the scalp is a common and curable medical condition that can be caused due to various reasons. In some cases, these scalp sores may become flaky or crusty, and the person may complain of pain either spontaneously or on touching the sore. Know what causes a sore scalp in this HealthHearty article.
Reshma Jirage
Last Updated: Mar 12, 2018
Development of sores on the scalp is generally the result of a number of factors. They are lesions formed on the skin of the scalp that start out as small red pimples. They may be caused due to excessive dryness of the scalp skin, infections, irritants, follicle inflammation, and sometimes even stress may lead to a sore scalp. This medical condition can be really painful as the sores can be sensitive to touch or even while you try to move your hair. Sometimes, brushing the hair, or even a simple updo, like a ponytail may hurt and would result in hampering your quality of life. These sores also itch a lot and cause thinning of hair.
Common Causes of Scalp Sores
In many cases, excessive use of cheap and harsh chemical shampoos, conditioners, and styling products are the main causes of formation of sore, reddish spots on the scalp. They strip the hair of the natural scalp oils and render the scalp skin dry. Dry skin is the one that becomes easily irritated and infected. It also leaves the hair follicles damaged and prone to infection.
✔ Excessive sebum (scalp oil) production and the flaked crusty skin usually cause the moist scalp skin to get red and inflamed. It also itches a lot. This encourages intense scratching, which not only amplifies inflammation but also opens the way for infections due to bacteria, yeasts, and fungi. They hide inside the follicles and also feed themselves. If you spot white-headed pimples at the follicles, then chances are high that you may be suffering from folliculitis. If left untreated, these may grow to become red boils that may eventually lead to bald patches with scars.

Malassezia globosa is a type of fungus that may cause seborrheic dermatitis. It breaks down the scalp oil and causes dandruff and flaking of skin. It also releases a byproduct, which is toxic and irritates the scalp skin. The sores caused by this fungus are generally devoid of pain and remains limited to the hairline.

✔ A rash that looks like black dots is caused due to fungus Tinea that resembles the growing mold (Tinea capitis), and it is in turn responsible for sore spots on the scalp. This infection is more common in children and gives rise to certain symptoms, such as itchy, red, scaly round patches on the scalp. It results in hair loss and formation of bald areas, which is caused due to excessive peeling of the scalp skin. The skin becomes red, scaly, and itchy. Swollen pus-filled blisters may also be seen. This rash is highly contagious.

✔ Bacteria, like Staphylococcus aureus can also cause scalp sores by populating the follicles and causing inflammation. The infected area becomes red and pimple-like. The follicles are damaged to such an extent that hair never grows back in them. Usually several rounds of treatment are required to fight off the infection.

✔ Some viral infections, such as shingles and chickenpox can also cause sore spots anywhere on the body including the scalp.

✔ Skin conditions, such as acne can cause sore spots on the scalp. This condition may result due to hormonal changes, infection, blocked pores, ingrown hair, and an incorrect diet.

✔ An allergic skin reaction, like contact dermatitis can be a cause of sore spots. It usually occurs in two forms -- allergic contact dermatitis and irritant contact dermatitis. Allergic contact dermatitis is a hypersensitive reaction, which takes place due to the body's immune system acting upon a substance which it perceives as an allergen. Irritant contact dermatitis results from the direct contact of irritants with the skin. Contact dermatitis may also occur due to some cosmetic allergy.

✔ In rare cases, stress due to work pressure, exhaustion, or emotional tension also can give rise to sore spots on the scalp. Even if such sores are caused by external physical factors, stress can greatly slow down the healing process.
What is to be Avoided
Products that use Sodium Laurel Sulfate -- a harsh cleaning and foaming agent -- may cause inflammation of the tender scalp tissue and damage the hair follicle shaft and cuticle. It is added in about 90% of all shampoos that are available in the market. It can cause some adverse side effects, such as premature aging of the skin, damage to eye membrane, prevention of hair follicle growth, etc. Also, when used on a scalp that already has sore spots, such a shampoo retards the healing process and most of the time, can even make the condition worse.
What is Helpful
You can use some natural oils, such as chamomile, lavender, avocado, or eucalyptus oil to soothe the itching. Nutritious food rich in vitamin C and zinc must be consumed to speed up healing and avoid recurrence of painful sores on the scalp.
It is true that sores on the scalp are temporary and can be completely cured. But do not self-diagnose, because if any OTC medicine that you may apply or ingest goes wrong, the symptoms can only go from bad to worse. Therefore, it is recommended that instead of a general physician, try to visit a dermatologist, trichologist, or an endocrinologist who would figure out the exact cause of the sores and eliminate the problem from its root.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional medical advice.