a woman is chatting with a friend and scratching her scalp

Surprised About A Painful Scalp Psoriasis Symptom

Last updated: October 2021

For more than thirty years, I have had a patch of psoriasis on my scalp that comes and goes. It hasn’t been really bad in the last decade or so. The worst it seems to get lately is flaky and a little painful, but I don’t get to the phase where it oozes and blisters.

I would have given a trigger warning for that gross-out description, but we’re among psoriasis warriors, and if we can’t be candid with each other about the symptoms of our disease, where can we be candid?

The impact of falling flakes

Usually, the flakes on my clothing are what tip me off to the fact that the patch on my scalp is causing trouble again. Oftentimes, I am with other people when I notice the flakes on my shirt — just the prospect of having others see my shoulders flecked with big flakes of dead skin is enough to get me to remove my fingers from my hair.

But lately, I haven’t really been around anyone. I’m a single woman in a house by herself. I occasionally do outdoor, distanced visits with loved ones, but I haven’t been physically close to anyone in months. So when I scratch my scalp, usually when I’m concentrating and unaware of the behavior, the falling flakes don’t necessarily stir me out of the behavior.

A painful psoriatic surprise

Yesterday in the shower, I stepped into the hot stream of water and relished the sensation of it on my low back, which was aching from arthritic pain, likely triggered by sitting too long at my desk with less than stellar posture. Ahh. I love a hot bath, sure, but sometimes a targeted stream of warm water on my joints and muscles is just as good.

After a few seconds of that, I stood straight up and scooched back so my hair could get wet. I was so startled I nearly yelped. The water hurt. Or, rather, the impact of the water on my scalp triggered a type of pain I hadn’t felt in quite a while. For the first time in recent memory, I had scratched my scalp so much that it was sore, and it hurt when the hot water made contact.

“Oh,” I thought to myself. “I let this get bad again without even realizing it ‘til now!” I immediately had an idea: I should write about this and see if anyone else has had this experience, the experience of not realizing their symptoms had gotten more extreme until some kind of outside force revealed it.

Do you experience surprise symptoms?

I am not ashamed of my psoriasis or the fact that I continue to scratch my scalp, but I certainly don’t enjoy realizing I’m doing it in front of someone and causing flakes to rain down in their sight. In the past, I’ve even asked a trusted loved one whom I spent lots of time with to gently let me know whenever she noticed me scratching so that I could better understand what circumstances triggered the behavior.

But I’ve been in my house, sleeping in my own bed, keeping my own company, and apparently stressed enough that I’m scratching again. Scratching so hard and so distractedly I am not even noticing the behavior until it results in a painful shock.

Have you had the experience of not realizing you were flaring until you had a specific wake-up call? Has living through this pandemic triggered a resurgence in your psoriatic arthritis symptoms and/or stress levels?

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