Causes of sore scalp

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Causes of sore scalp
Several conditions cause scalp pain. (headache image by Vasiliy Koval from

Soreness of the scalp can be caused by a number of conditions and diseases. A simple tension headache can make the scalp feel uncomfortable. Occasionally, a fungus such as ringworm or parasites such as head lice cause the scalp to become sore. Rarely, scalp soreness is caused by chronic conditions, illnesses or autoimmune disorders.

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Muscle Contraction Headache

Muscle contraction headaches are caused by stress and tension. Chronic headaches due to muscle contraction can cause the scalp to feel sore, even to the point where it hurts to comb or brush one's hair. Muscle contraction headaches usually subside after the patients' stress is alleviated.

Tinea Capitis (Ringworm)

Tinea capitis is a contagious fungal infection commonly called ringworm of the scalp. People with minor scalp injuries, poor hygiene or constantly wet scalps are at risk of contracting this infection. Symptoms can include bald patches; itching, puss-filled sores; inflamed lesions; and small, black dots. Doctors use anti-fungal medication to treat ringworm.

Head Lice

Head lice are wingless parasites that live in hair and feed off of small amounts of the host's blood. Lice bites can cause itching and scalp soreness. Head lice are most common among children 3 to 12 years old. Symptoms include scratching; bumps and sores on the head and neck; and lice eggs attached to hair. Over-the-counter, lice-killing shampoo rids the scalp of these painful parasites.

Giant Cell Arteritis

This condition, related to polymyalgia rheumatica, causes inflamed arteries in the scalp, head and neck. This inflammation causes swelling and soreness due to oversized cells blocking the thin arteries of the upper body, particularly the arteries in the temple area on either side of the head. Apart from soreness, symptoms include fatigue, fever and loss of appetite. Physicians use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroid medicine to treat giant cell arteritis.


Pemphigus is a blanket term for a group of autoimmune diseases that cause painful blisters on the scalp, skin and mucus membranes. Pemphigus causes skin cells to separate from each other and fluid fills the separated areas to make blisters. There are several types of this disease, each with its own symptoms and diagnosis. Doctors use immunosuppressants and antibiotics to treat pemphigus.


Cutaneous lupus erythematosus is a form of lupus limited to inflammation of the skin and scalp. The symptom most commonly observed is a raised, rounded, painful rash on the scalp, face and neck. Other lupus symptoms include achy,swollen joints; sores; anaemia; and prolonged fever. Scientists aren't sure what causes lupus, but they know that it involves a combination of inherited traits, environment and hormones. Doctors treat lupus with anti-inflammatory medication.


Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that causes patches of inflamed, itchy or sore skin covered with silvery scales. Psoriasis often occurs on the scalp, knees and elbows, but it can occur anywhere on the body. Physicians treat psoriasis with topical cream, light therapy and systematic immune therapy medicines.

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