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Avatar universal

Severe scalp pain

I am begging for help.  I am a 30 year old female who has been having severe scalp pain for the past 9 months.  It feels like someone is pulling out my hair or acid was poured on it.  A few days ago, I went to get my hair cut to lessen the weight on my head and the barber caught her comb in a snarl and pulled a section of my hair very hard.  It feels like I was cut with a razor right where she pulled.  I can feel EXACTLY where she pulled out the few hairs.  It is severe and I don't know what is wrong.  This was 5 days ago and it hurts very bad.

I have seen several doctors for the scalp pain and they are still not sure what caused this or how to treat it.  The pain is enough to make me physically ill and not want to eat.  It brings me to tears every day.  Could she have damaged the nerves or follicles?  She said she didn't pull out any hair, but I think she did.  I have never felt this much pain before.  Please help me!  I am terrified and in SO much pain.
171 Responses
Avatar universal
Welcome to the medhelp neurology forum. Thanks for writing in. I can understand the agony that you are going through. Excessively sensitive scalp could be due to scalp inflammation caused due to diet, stress, internal hormonal imbalances or a bacterial/ fungal infection. The symptoms could be severe itching,redness,pimples, oily scalp, flaking, crusting causing bleeding. It could be something more serious like temporal arteritis. This is the inflammation and damage to the large blood vessels that supply the head, usually branching in the neck from carotid artery, usually the temporal artery. Along with scalp sensitivity and tenderness other symptoms are excessive sweating,jaw pains intermittently, muscle aches, throbbing headache on one side or back of head, visual disturbances. Hemoglobin may be low, serum alkaline phosphatase is increased, sedimentation rate and C reactive protein are raised. Corticosteroids and immunosuppresants are prescribed. Please consult your neurologist at the earliest for quisk intervention. I hope this helps you.
Avatar universal
hi, i'm not sure but i hope somone can help -all i can think of is a nerve issue, it may not be at the site if the pain -i suffer from very sensitive and painfull skin in my groin area and this is due to nerve damage at the spine...

all the best
Go to the doctor and have them do an MRI or CT scan to rule out any issues. If they come up with nothing go to a neurologist.
Go to the doctor and have them do an MRI or CT scan to rule out any issues. If they come up with nothing go to a neurologist.
997898 tn?1303738464
hi tyke.

have you ever done anything to your cervical spine?  i have been told i have occipital neuropathy and this is one of or can be one of the symptoms.  if you haven't had a recent c-spine mri, see if you can get your dr. to order one for you.  best of luck and please let us know how you make out!  i feel your pain!
Avatar universal
Thanks for your quick reply.  I had an MRI done of my brain and spine and it came back normal.  I have had many labs done and the only abnormal results were an increased cortisol level (stress) and my protein levels were low.  I have struggled with eating disorders for about 16 years but have been OK for a year or two.  I do ingest a lot of nutraweet daily.  A LOT!  Could this cause scalp pain this severe?

The pain is so bad that I have thought of suicide several times although it isn't something I could do.  It hurts to actually move my hair and it feels like something is eating my scalp.  I was diagnosed with Seb Derm of the scalp but the dermatologist said that seb derm doesn't create pain.  Are there any other tests out there?  I swear that there is something going on under my scalp for it to bring me to tears when I shower, comb, sleep, etc...

I am SO scared.  I also want to mention that I had my hair Highlighted on the top half of my head about 1-2 months before the scalp pain.  I actually woke up not being able to touch my head.  My life was great before I WOKE up with this.  I kind of ruled out a chemical burn from the highlights since my scalp looks normal and the pain didn't start right after the highlights...  Any thoughts on this?  I would love it if you could name some tests or treatment for this.  They also thought that this could be psychological pain.  Is this possible to have such severe scalp pain and it be in my head?

I will be going to a pain clinic next month or the Mayo Clinic.  I wanted to ask you of your opinion on the eating disorder, seb derm and more specifically the hair highlights.  

I appreciate anything you can do to help me!  
I see this is an old post.. But I have had morgellons for a little over a tad and for the last few months almosf all my symptoms are gone except for the weirdest, most painful, rarely talked about symptom, which is my hair has been going back u feel my skin. It's usually around my ears and hairline, the hairs closest to hairline and sideburns area somehow ABSORB Into my skin, unlike hair splinters which happen when a falling hair hits your skin at a perfect angle and pierces it like a needle, or falls and sharp end goes into a pore.  No.. Mine just somehow will cling to my face and just disappear under my skin. Lately ,they've  been getting fat tangled up inside my skin, which makes it painful and almost impossible to brush, makes lumps, and what looks like pimples bit is really little hairs knotted together. Last night I crossed for hours and even tried shaving behind my ears, but boring worked, and I somehow ended up getting a mmassive amount of hair stuck u under my skin in my face. I can feel them poking out of my pore everywbere, I can see ugly, tight, wrinkle -like lines everywhere, and I have stranded wrapped around my ear so tight its turning red. I was wondering if any of this stuff happen to you, because it sounds super similar. Ive seriously been debating suicide, and anyone I try to tell about this, or explain why in always depressed and short fused, and always picking at my pores as well as messing with my hair, they laugh and don't really see how it could hurt that bad. But it does. The stinging and pulling, and people looking at me weird cuz I'm 26 and it looks like I have wrinkles, which are covered in Lil tiny scabbed holes. I need help soon, for I really dont think I can do this for much longer.i just pulled a hair out of my face&felt it get caught and tighten on another hair on. The opposite side of my head. God.... I'd rather have Cancer. At least then I'd get help and answers. I hope you're doing better, maybe one day ill be pain free and beautiful again.
Avatar universal
Hi there. Extreme scalp sensitivity and tenderness appears to be quite closely linked to temporal arteritis. Please let your neurologist think on these lines. A biopsy of the affected artery would be needed to visualize giant cells microscopically. It appears too severe to be attributed to seborrhheic dermatitis or psychological factors. Nutrasweet is aspartame and not recommended for regular use due to carcinogenic potential( cancer causing).Try other sweet replacements like fruits, cane sugar etc.
Please don’t think on the lines of self harm, life is too precious to be given up just like that. Fight the battle, you will definitely hit somewhere. Take the help of family and friends to support you through this. I know chronic, agonizing and undiagnosed symptoms can weigh down the strongest of people but don’t give up. A psychiatrist could help you with medications for depression. Yes, a visit to the pain physician would be very helpful for nerve blocks etc. Take care and keep me posted.

Avatar universal
You don't know how much it means to me that you write back so quickly.  I feel like no one believes the pain I am in.  I am seeing a psychiatrist and therapist.  

One thing I wanted to mention was that my scalp pain goes in cycles.  For about 4 days it will hurt to the point of tears and then overnight it will turn to severe itching.  I was also diagnosed with Chronic Telogen Effluvium and have lost about 30% of my hair over the past 8 months.  The hair loss has lessened but I tend to lose more on the itchy days.  I was prescribed a 2% Ketoconazole shampoo but I have only been using Head and Shoulders because I am scared to use the Ketoconazole.  Is the 2% Ketoconazole safe?  Will it damage my hair?  

I also was still wondering about the hair dye that I mentioned in the previous post.  Do you think this could cause pain like this?  I just don't know what to do anymore.  It feels like something is eating my scalp right now and then I know it will turn to pain again.  Is it typical to have pain associated with seb derm?

I apologize for asking so many questions.  I have seen about 11 doctors since the scalp pain, hair loss and dermatitis came on and the doctors don't know how to find the cause of the pain.  They have done mainly blood work.  Do you think a biopsy is necessary?  Last time we talked about it, they didn't want to do it because of my severity of the scalp pain.  They also didn't think they would find anything.

I still think the doctors are missing something or not doing the right tests.  There must be a cause to the pain whether it was the hair dye, my hair getting pulled, diet, etc...  Like I said, I went to bed great and woke up with the severe scalp pain.  Is there any hope for me?  

I want to take an oral medication for the seb derm, but no doctor wants to prescribe it to me.  I read about Itroconazole working for seb derm.  Any suggestions on how to treat this?  

I appreciate your help and thank you again in advance for any advice you can offer me!
Avatar universal
Make sure you do go to Mayo or another tertiary care center.  Severe pain on the scalp would likely be nerve related, perhaps neuralgia, from shingles or herpes simplex, even if was quite awhile ago, this could persist.  Also, neuritis, as others above this comment have stated.  There are also inflammations of other arteries other than temporal which is very painful.  Make sure why they are trying to figure this out, they try Lyrica, Neurontin, or Topamax for your pain to see if works (helps nerve pain). BOTOX is used for migraines and perhaps could benefit this if it persists.  Also, nerves can be ablated if they can determine which one(s) are affected.  Good luck!  

Avatar universal
Thank you all for your help and advice on this chronic issue.  I had an MRI done of my brain and neck and everything was normal.  They ruled out pinched nerves, MS and any other neurological disorders because of it being normal.  I am still in a great deal of pain and my sebborrheic dermatitis on the scalp is spreading and getting worse.  I use head and Shoulders daily.  I was also prescribed 2% Ketoconazole shampoo for my scalp but am terrified of it making my hair fall out or become dry and brittle...

Has anyone ever tried Keto shampoo (Nizoral)?

I would love to hear anymore thoughts on the scalp pain and also the seb derm.

Thanks again!
Avatar universal
Dear Doctor,

I am having scalp pain since last 2-3 years and hair fall also since last 7-8 years. This time pain and hair fall has increased. I am afraid of this pain n hair fall. Please advice.
Avatar universal
I know this is an older post, but I want to tell my experience in hope that it helps someone.  I had a shooting pain in the back left portion of my head.  It was on and off for several years.  I also noticed that I would get bumps on my scalp that would bleed if I picked them off.  I thought these were unrelated issues, but I tried a new shampoo.  I went and got a bottle of Denorex shampoo (with Salicylic Acid as the active ingredient).  I used that everyday for about 3 months and then scaled back to 3-4 times a week.  That was over a year ago and I haven't had either the bumps on my scalp or the shooting pain to the back of my head.  I am not a doctor and if the pain is constant and overwhelming, I would certainly get it checked out by a professional.  But I also don't believe that every condition is solved by drugging people up with all kinds of prescriptions.  Give the shampoo a try and then see if you need more extreme measures.
Avatar universal
Thank you for still replying.  I still have the burning scalp and they still don't know what the cause is.  I was diagnosed with seborheic dermatitis about 3 months after the pain started.  I have been using medicated shampoos and prescription strength shampoos for about 2 1/2 years now.  I struggle to keep the seb derm at bay and have to use a variety of medicated shampoos daily to keep the itching and scaling down.  I still have the burning pain some days and they don't think the two are related at all.  I appreciate your reply and I just wanted to inform you that I have used Salycilic Acid shampoo but it did not lessen the pain.  Thanks!
Avatar universal
I had suffered from scalp pain (like someone was pulling my hair) to scalp tingling with hair loss in the area of disomfort.  After years of tests and doctors and no conclusive diagnosis, I was advised to try a serious elimination diet to eliminate the possibility of food sensitivities.  The only thing I tested positive for was lactose and fructose intolerance, both in the sugar family. I tested negative for Celiac.   I followed the FODMAP elimination diet and within two weeks, noticed my scalp pain was gone.  Sugar in many forms (certain fruits, vegetables, flours, etc) flairs the symptoms for me as a result of my fructose malabsorption.  I have a limited diet, but I now able to know exactly what my triggers are and I havent fell this great in years. .  Consider it - it may or may not be your issue.  Google fructose malabsorption and see if anything resonates with you
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