The Dandruff Experts: Dermatologists, Trichologists, Doctors and Pharmacists.
Dandruff is a relatively common condition that affects many people throughout their life. Who should you seek advice from for your dandruff? Keep reading for an overview of each professional and how they can help with scalp conditions.
Pharmacists are experts in medicines and their uses which means they are able to advise patients, doctors and nurses, on the three stages of medicinal treatment: prescription, treatment and condition management.
How can a pharmacist help with scalp conditions?
Although a pharmacist may not be able to diagnose a scalp condition, they can advise on how to treat the symptoms. For scalp conditions, such as dandruff, a pharmacist may suggest over-the-counter treatments as well as advise how to use them.
Most cases of dandruff can be easily treated through self-care without the need to consult a doctor. The NHS recommends consulting a pharmacist for advice about different types of anti-dandruff shampoo and trying them out for at least a month before going to a doctor. However, if the symptoms continue after a month of using anti-dandruff shampoo or the scalp is swollen and itchy, a pharmacist will then recommend seeing their GP.
A doctor at your local practice is also known as a GP (General Practitioner). GP’s cover a wide range of different types of care in the community. They are part of a much wider team responsible for the treatment and prevention of medical conditions.
An appointment to see a GP usually lasts 10 minutes during which they will assess the patient and discuss their treatment options. Depending on their examination and diagnosis, the GP has several management options which they will discuss with the patient to develop a shared and agreed plan. This plan may include a hospital referral, blood tests or a prescription for medication.
How can a GP help with scalp conditions?
A doctor will usually be able to diagnose the type of scalp condition by the way it looks. For example, dandruff may be present as white flakes of skin on the scalp and in the hair and can be treated with anti-dandruff shampoos. Whereas psoriasis is usually recognised as scaly patches on the skin on the scalp which can be treated with creams/ointments or tablets which can be prescribed by the doctor. Similar treatment options are available for eczema on the scalp. A doctor will be able to recommend the best type of anti-dandruff shampoo based on the cause of dandruff.
In order for the doctor to better understand the history of the condition and how it developed, they may ask the patient questions about the products they used on their scalp and how often they wash their hair. In circumstances where the patient has tried multiple treatment options provided by a GP without success, they may then receive a referral to a dermatologist or trichologist.
Booking an appointment or being referred to see a skin specialist, also known as a dermatologist, may also be a part of the diagnosis and treatment pathway for a chronic scalp condition. Dermatologists specialise in skin, hair and nail diseases and they see a wide range of referred patients, from newborn infants to the elderly.
Some of the most common conditions that dermatologists treat include acne, eczema, dermatitis, fungal infections and psoriasis. Medications and noninvasive therapies can treat many skin conditions, while others require more invasive approaches.
How can a dermatologist help with scalp conditions?
A dermatologist can diagnose a patient's condition and recommend them a treatment plan that best meets their needs. Based on how effective the previous treatment has been, a dermatologist may suggest new treatment options. With dandruff, for example, several different active ingredients can be used to treat the symptoms, including ketoconazole, salicylic acid, selenium sulfide and tar. These are typically found in anti-dandruff shampoos. Each ingredient will target different types of scalp conditions and causes.
Often a dermatologist will ask a patient to bring any new hair care products to their appointment with them in order to determine whether the products may be causing dandruff.
Trichology is the science and study of hair which comes from the Greek word ‘trikhos’, meaning hair. Unlike dermatologists, trichologists are not medically qualified but are specialists in their area.
Specialising in the hair and scalp, trichologists are able to diagnose and treat many conditions affecting the area including eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis and dandruff.
How can a trichologist help with scalp conditions?
Trichologists can treat patients of any age and hair type, including fine, medium, coarse or afro-textured hair. Once a diagnosis has been established, they will be able to offer the patient a treatment plan that may include several types of treatments to find the most effective path. These treatments may include a combination of creams, ointments or shampoos, depending on the condition.
A trichologist will be able to identify and confirm the presence of dandruff and, after examining the scalp and taking a history from the sufferer, will be able to recommend appropriate treatments.
If the patient has a history of using dandruff treatments with no success, a trichologist may suggest an investigation into the following areas of health:
- Frequency of hair washing
- Stress levels
- Menstrual cycle
- Hormone imbalance
Most cases of dandruff don’t require a doctors attention. Mild dandruff can be treated with a shampoo that treats the cause, not just the symptoms. If that doesn't work, a medicated shampoo may help from your local pharmacy. If your condition doesn’t improve with regular use of over-the-counter dandruff shampoo it’s recommended that you visit your doctor.
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