Your head is made up of many different areas. Each of these areas can be affected by different health conditions. Some of these conditions affect the scalp, while others may be related to nerves or blood vessels in the area.
One area of your head that you may be familiar with is the crown, or top, of your head. Below, we’ll explore the different conditions that can affect this area, their symptoms, and when to make an appointment with your doctor.
The crown of your head is located at the very top of your skull. You may also sometimes see it referred to as the vertex.
Like other parts of your skull, the crown works to provide protection and support for the tissues of your head, including your brain. It’s located along your skull’s sagittal suture, which is one of several joints that connect the bones of your skull.
The sagittal suture runs down the center of your skull from the front toward the back. The crown itself is situated on this line, at the very highest point.
You can find the crown of your head by touching the midline of your skull and beginning to move your fingers toward the back of your head. When you reach the highest point of your skull, you’ve found the crown.
Now let’s explore some of the different health conditions that can affect the crown of your head.
Hair loss happens when you begin to lose hair from your scalp or other parts of your body. It’s also called alopecia. Two types of hair loss that can commonly impact the crown of your head include androgenic alopecia and alopecia areata.
Androgenic alopecia is the most common form of hair loss in both men and women. Many people with androgenic alopecia have a family history of this type of hair loss.
While the exact pattern of hair loss can differ between men (male pattern baldness) and women (female pattern baldness), androgenic alopecia is associated with thinning of the hair at the crown of the head for both sexes.
It’s also possible that androgenic alopecia affecting the crown of your head may also increase the risk of other illnesses. Let’s look at a couple of examples:
- A 2013 meta-analysis of six studies involving over 36,990 men found a modest association between androgenic alopecia affecting the crown of the head and an increased risk of coronary heart disease.
- A 2014 cohort study of 39,070 men found that male pattern baldness was moderately associated with an increased risk for aggressive prostate cancer.
Alopecia areata is believed to occur when your immune system attacks your hair follicles. It can cause bald patches on the scalp, including on the crown of the head.
The condition can also impact the entire scalp or other parts of the body.
Sunburn happens when you’re overexposed to UV light. This typically happens from being out in the sun, but can also occur from man-made sources of UV light, such as tanning beds.
The main symptoms to look out for include skin that:
Dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis
These two conditions are related to each other. In fact, dandruff is considered to be a mild form of seborrheic dermatitis. Both can sometimes be localized to one area of the head, such as the crown. However, they often affect multiple areas.
When you have dandruff, your scalp becomes flaky and scaly. These flakes are typically white or gray in color. You may notice them on your clothes as well, particularly if you’re wearing dark colors. Mild itching may also be present.
Seborrheic dermatitis can also cause flaking and scaling of the skin on your scalp, but the flakes are often yellow and oily. Itching and redness can also be present. Seborrheic dermatitis is called cradle cap when it occurs in infants.
Scalp psoriasis can occur in patches anywhere on the scalp. It can also affect the entire scalp.
Psoriasis symptoms often come and go. Sometimes, flare-ups are caused by factors like stress, cold weather, or dry air.
Some symptoms of scalp psoriasis to look out for are:
- red inflamed areas on the scalp
- scaling of the skin, which appears silver or gray in color
- itching that can range from mild to severe
- dry skin that may crack and bleed
- a scalp that’s sore or has a burning sensation
- temporary hair loss in the affected area
Ringworm (tinea capitis)
Ringworm is a fungal infection that can affect various parts of the body, including the scalp. When ringworm happens on your scalp it’s called tinea capitis. Tinea capitis is more common in children than in adults.
Tinea capitis is spread through direct contact with a person or animal that has the infection. You can also get it through sharing personal items like hairbrushes, combs, and hats.
The infection initially starts in the area where the contact occurred, but can eventually spread to affect the whole scalp. Some of the symptoms of tinea capitis include:
- round patches of skin that are red and inflamed near the edges, which slowly expand
- scaly skin
- hair loss
- hair that’s brittle and breaks off easily
- Tension-type headache: This is the most common type of headache. It’s caused by contraction of muscles in your head or neck in response to things like stress and lack of sleep. It may feel as if a band is being tightened around your head.
- Chronic headaches: This is when you have a headache at least 15 days in a month over a 3-month period. People with this type of headache often feel a constant mild to moderate pain at the top or sides of their head.
- Migraine: Migraine is a type of headache characterized by recurring attacks of moderate to severe throbbing or pulsing pain. While migraine pain is often felt on one side of the head, it may radiate to the top of your head.
- Occipital neuralgia: This is a type of headache that causes throbbing or electric shock-like pain in the neck and back of the head. It often begins at the neck and radiates upward. Some people may also experience scalp pain.
It’s possible that you can injure the crown of your head. Some ways that this can occur include falls, car accidents, or assault.
The potential symptoms of a head injury can include:
- swelling, bruising, or bleeding at or around the affected area
- trouble with speaking, walking, or memory
- changes in vision or hearing
- clear fluid coming from the nose or ears (CSF leak)
- loss of consciousness
There are several different types of skin cancer. While skin cancer can occur on any area of the body, it often develops in areas that are frequently exposed to the sun, such as the head, neck, and back.
Those with hair loss on the crown of their head may be at an increased risk of skin cancer, as this area can be easily exposed to UV light. In fact, a
Let’s explore the symptoms of each type of skin cancer:
- Basal cell carcinoma can appear as:
- flat, pale areas that appear similar to a scar
- red areas that can be raised and itchy
- pearly lumps that have areas of a different color, such as red, brown, or black
- sores that may be crusted over or ooze fluid
- Squamous cell carcinoma can look like:
- growths that look like warts
- raised lumps that are dimpled in the center
- red areas that feel rough and may bleed
- sores that may be crusted over or ooze fluid
- Melanoma can be present if a mole or birthmark has:
- an irregular border
- inconsistent coloring
- a large size
- changes in shape, size, or coloration
- itching or bleeding
- occur with increasing frequency
- progressively get worse
- become constant
- come and go irregularly
- be more severe in the morning
- get worse when you cough, change position, or strain
Additional symptoms of a brain tumor can include:
- nausea and vomiting
- problems with your vision or hearing
- weakness or lack of coordination
- changes in personality, behavior, or memory
Conditions affecting infants
There are some conditions that can affect the shape of the crown of the head in infants. In fact, it’s not uncommon for an infant to have an uneven head shape. For example, one area of the head may appear flatter in comparison to others.
This can be due to passage through the birth canal or to resting the head in the same position (positional plagiocephaly). Generally, uneven head shape can be treated by changing the direction of your baby’s head when they sleep or by using a molded helmet.
Another thing that you may notice is a bulging fontanel. A fontanel (soft spot) is an area of an infant’s skull in which the bones have not grown together yet. Fontanels allow a child’s brain to continue to grow and develop.
The largest fontanel is the anterior fontanel, which is located close to the crown of the head. Sometimes this fontanel may bulge or feel firm to the touch. Conditions that can most commonly cause this include:
There are several signs that signal it may be a good idea to make an appointment with a doctor. These include:
- itching at the crown of your head that:
- doesn’t go away
- is severe
- interferes with your sleep or daily activities
- hair loss that:
- comes on suddenly
- is unexplained
- is distressing
- an unexplained rash at or around the crown of your head
- a sunburn that:
- moles or spots that:
- appear abnormal
- are associated with redness, swelling, or bleeding
- have had a change in appearance
- a headache that:
The crown of your head is the area at the very top of your skull. There are several conditions that may affect this area
Many of these conditions are related to the skin and can include dandruff, sunburn, and psoriasis. Other conditions that can cause symptoms at or around this area are headaches, injuries, or brain tumors.
While some conditions affecting the crown of the head can be treated at home, others require medical attention. If you have symptoms at or around the crown of your head that are concerning, schedule an appointment with a doctor.