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What Causes Tingling on the Scalp and How to Get Rid of It?

Tingling on the scalp is a sign of a sensitive scalp. A sensitive scalp is prone to skin irritation and reactions even to mild triggers. This causes burning and prickling sensations over the scalp along with a tingling sensation. It may sometimes be accompanied by pain. A sensitive scalp may react to various factors which can be physical like atmospheric changes, chemical like reaction to a detergent or use of a specific shampoo, psychological like extreme stress, and hormonal like those seen during the menstrual cycle of a female.[1]

Scalp sensitivity is a subset of skin sensitivity which occurs in other areas of body causing itching and prickling sensation such as that seen with atopic dermatitis. Studies reveal that ethnic factors do play a role in an individual having scalp sensitivity. The study suggests that French people develop this condition more than people from other ethnic background with the most common triggers being emotional health, cosmetics, and pollution.[1]

There are also some other factors which play a role in scalp sensitivity causing tingling on the scalp. These include autonomous sensory meridian response, skin disorders causing inflammation and irritation of the skin, different forms of alopecia, along with anxiety and stress. This article details these causes of tingling on the scalp and how to get rid of it.[2]

What Causes Tingling On The Scalp and How to Get Rid of It?

What Causes Tingling On The Scalp and How to Get Rid of It?

Some of the causes of Tingling on the Scalp include:

  1. Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response: This occurs as a result of sensory stimulation causing Tingling on the Scalp. It normally happens whenever there is an audiovisual trigger such as watching a movie which triggers a sensory response causing a tingling sensation. This generally starts on the scalp and goes down the neck to the upper extremities. People find this sensation to be quite relaxing and a source for pleasure.[2]

  2. Skin Irritation: This is perhaps the most common cause of Tingling on the Scalp. This is usually caused by cosmetic products like use of detergents or hair dyes, and using fragrant shampoos or hair conditioners. If these conditioners or shampoos are applied in excess to the hair and not cleaned thoroughly then a portion of it may remain on the scalp causing skin irritation resulting in Tingling on the Scalp.[2]

    Scalp sensitivity is something that varies from individual to individual. Studies suggest that it may be related to the number of oil glands on the scalp. The fewer the glands the drier will be skin making that individual prone to skin irritation and scalp sensitivity.[2]

    If a physician is not able to identify any other cause for the Tingling on the Scalp then in most cases it is scalp sensitivity that becomes the culprit. The tingling will usually occur before the onset of the rash. The major skin conditions that can cause Tingling on the Scalp include:[2]

  3. Seborrheic Dermatitis: This condition involves formation of red colored patches on the skin surface with yellowish crust and scales. Before the onset of the rash the affected individual will have Tingling on the Scalp. This condition may affect both children and adults. [2]

  4. Scalp Eczema: This in medical term is called atopic dermatitis. This condition causes thick patches of skin that are usually dry and extremely itchy. It also tends to cause Tingling on the Scalp. This condition is seen more in children than adults. It is more common in children than adults. The rash is normally seen in the neck region.[2]

  5. Medications: The side effects of certain medications have also seen to cause Tingling on the Scalp. These side effects are harmless and not a cause of worry. However, it is recommended to visit a physician for consultation if the tingling on the scalp becomes overly bothersome. The most common medication that causes Tingling on the Scalp is believed to be Labetalol which is a beta-blocker and is used commonly as an antihypertensive.[2]

    The tingling will be observed a couple of days after starting the medication. Certain medications used for management of ADHD also have a side effect profile of causing Tingling on the Scalp. A clinical study done showed patients who used Vyvanse for management of ADHD complained of Tingling on the Scalp.[2]

  6. Ringworms: This is also quite a common cause for Tingling on the Scalp. It is a common fungal infection that affects the areas which has hair growth like the pubic region, underarms, and the scalp. Along with tingling it also causes hair loss in some affected individuals. In some cases, pain has also been reported as a result of ringworms. There are plenty of antifungal creams and lotions available which can effectively treat ringworms.[2]

  7. Head Lice: This is a common problem in children. Head Lice is an extremely small insect that thrives on the hair of humans and feeds on the blood. Whenever the lice bite the scalp, it causes severe itching sensation along with tingling. Head Lice in extremely common in children and very rarely seen in adults. In most cases, adults get head lice from their children. Children going to school or staying in daycare centers are more likely to get head lice.[2]

  8. Alopecia: This is a common term used for a condition where an individual starts to lose hair on the scalp. There are various forms of alopecia. This usually occurs when the hair follicles get damaged. Along with tingling on the scalp, the individual will also have severe itching sensation. Tingling on the Scalp when caused by alopecia is medically termed as trichodynia and alopecia areata is the most common form of alopecia that causes it.[2]

  9. Stress: Stress plays a major role in many medical conditions, including Tingling on the Scalp. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that people with anxiety and panic attacks more often than not develop scalp paresthesias or Tingling on the Scalp. The reason behind this is believed to be changes in way the blood flows as a result of stress.[2]

    Changes in stress hormones are also believed to play a role when it comes to Tingling on the Scalp. Aside from Tingling on the Scalp, an individual with a panic attack will also have dizziness, chest pain, breathing problems and nausea.[2]

  10. Migraine Disorder: Studies have shown that migraines at times may also cause Tingling on the Scalp. This normally happens during the aura phase of a migraine attack.

    An aura usually precedes a migraine headache with symptoms including Tingling on the Scalp along with visual and auditory sensations.[2]

    More than 95% of people experience Tingling on the Scalp along with visual auras in which they can see halos around the field of vision. Photophobia is also quite common in people with migraines. This is followed by paresthesias and Tingling on the Scalp.[2]

  11. Shingles: It is a viral infection in which the affected individual develops red itchy rashes all over the body. It is caused by the herpes zoster virus. This is usually seen in people who have a history of chickenpox. The herpes zoster virus stays dormant for a number of years after the initial attack of chickenpox. However, it can activate again and cause shingles.[2]

    The rash caused by shingles generally develops on the one side of the body, including the scalp. Tingling on the Scalp will be experienced by the affected individual a few days prior to the onset of the actual rash characteristic of shingles. Additionally, the patient may also experience frequent bouts of headache, fever and an upset stomach.[2]

  12. Nerve Dysfunction: The function of the nerves is to act as a communication engine where it carries signals from the different parts of the body to the brain. If, for some reason, this communication is hampered then the individual may experience sensory symptoms including Tingling on the Scalp. This usually happens due to increased pressure on the nerves. The tingling resolves when the pressure is released.[2]

    If the tingling sensation occurs frequently and persists for a prolonged period of time then it is normally said to be caused due to an impinged nerve. There are also certain medical conditions which affect the functioning of the nerves causing Tingling on the Scalp. The most common of all medical conditions is multiple sclerosis. The primary presenting feature of this condition is numbness and tingling in the upper and lower extremities, including the scalp.[2]

    Some diabetic also complain of persistent Tingling on the Scalp. Diabetes is a condition that can cause significant blood vessel damage which in turn damages the nerves causing the tingling sensation. This in medical term is known as peripheral neuropathy.[2]

  13. Fibromyalgia: This is a chronic pain disorder where the affected individual has very low pain threshold. Even the slightest of a jerk or a push may cause severe pain to the affected individual. Apart from pain, fibromyalgia also causes tingling sensation in various parts of the body, including the scalp. An individual with fibromyalgia will also experience frequent bouts of headaches, muscle stiffness, chronic fatigue, and severe pain with no obvious source.[2]

    Now that we know the various causes of Tingling on the Scalp, we can speak about the treatment options available to manage this condition. The treatment normally depends on what exactly is causing Tingling on the Scalp. Skin and scalp sensitivity can be addressed by avoiding cosmetic products that contain added chemicals and fragrances. It is best to avoid hard bristled combs to prevent irritation of the skin resulting in Tingling on the Scalp.[2]

    It is best to avoid cosmetics that contain alcohol, phthalates, or sodium lauryl sulfate. It would help to check the label of the hair conditioner or shampoo to look for these products. If an underlying medical condition is believed to be the cause of Tingling on the Scalp then a consultation with a physician is recommended. The physician can then formulate the best treatment plan depending on the cause to manage Tingling on the Scalp.[2]

    In conclusion, Tingling on the Scalp can be caused due to numerous reasons. In majority of the cases, the causes are relatively benign and can be addressed by making some changes to the hair products that the individual may be using. However, it this condition persists for longer periods of time, then it may be a sign of some medical condition.[2]

    The most likely medical conditions causing Tingling on the Scalp include migraines, nerve dysfunction, or a viral infection, especially if they are accompanied by some other symptoms as has been explained in detail above. In such cases, a consultation with a physician is recommended to identify the underlying cause and start treatment for it to get rid of Tingling on the Scalp.[2]


Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:May 9, 2022

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