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Approach to the patient with a scalp disorder

Beth G Goldstein, MD
Adam O Goldstein, MD, MPH
Section Editors
Robert P Dellavalle, MD, PhD, MSPH
Moise L Levy, MD
Deputy Editor
Abena O Ofori, MD


Disorders of the scalp can result from a wide variety of inflammatory, infectious, parasitic, neoplastic, and idiopathic dermatologic or systemic disorders. Often, the patient history and physical examination significantly narrow the differential diagnosis.

This topic discusses the clinical assessment of patients with scalp disorders and reviews multiple conditions that present with visible changes on the scalp. To aid with diagnosis, the disorders are organized according to important clinical features. The evaluation of hair loss, a clinical finding that occurs in some scalp disorders, is reviewed separately. (See "Evaluation and diagnosis of hair loss".)


The patient history and physical examination are often sufficient for identifying the most likely cause of a scalp eruption. In the remainder of cases, this information helps to narrow the differential diagnosis.

Relevant information from the patient history may include:

Age of onset (eg, birth, infancy, childhood, or adulthood)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: May 31, 2017.
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