Seborroheic dermatitis

What is seborrhoeic dermatitis?

Seborrhoeic dermatitis is a skin condition that primarily affects your scalp. It causes scaly patches, stubborn dandruff and red skin. The condition can also affect other oily areas of the body, such as sides of the nose, the face, ears, eyebrows, eyelids and chest.

seborrheic dermatitis

Seborrhoeic dermatitis is also referred to as seborrheic eczema, dandruff and seborrheic psoriasis.

What is the prognosis of seborrhoeic dermatitis?

Seborrhoeic dermatitis can go away without treatment, or you may need repeated treatments before the symptoms go away. Seborrhoeic dermatitis can also reoccur.

The condition is known as cradle cap in infants and causes scaly, crusty, patches on the scalp.

Risk factors

There are various factors that can increase your risk of developing seborrhoeic dermatitis, including:

  • Psychiatric and neurologic conditions, such as depression and Parkinson's disease.
  • A weakened immune system.
  • Recovery from stressful medical conditions.
  • Some medications.

What are the symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis?

Seborrhoeic dermatitis signs and symptoms may include:

  • Dandruff on your scalp, hair, beard eyebrows or moustache
  • Patches of greasy skin covered with yellow scales flaky white or crust on the scalp, sides of the nose, face, eyebrows, ears, eyelids, chest, armpits, groin area or under the breasts
  • Red skin
  • Itching
  • Your back and upper chest, between your shoulder blades, may have round, pink or red patches with mild scaling.
  • Redness, inflammation or appearance of scales in areas such as the cheeks nose, armpits, ears, shoulders and groin.

How is seborrhoeic dermatitis diagnosed?

A dermatologist will be able to determine whether you have seborrheic dermatitis by examining your skin. They may scrape off skin cells for examination (biopsy) to rule out conditions with symptoms similar to seborrheic dermatitis, including:

  • Psoriasis.
  • Atopic dermatitis (eczema).
  • Tinea versicolor.
  • Rosacea.

What are the causes of seborrhoeic dermatitis?

It's not fully known what causes some people to develop seborrhoeic dermatitis though it's thought to be associated with a yeast called Malassezia. Everyone has Malassezia on their skin, however, those who have seborrhoeic dermatitis are more sensitive to it or seem to have more of it. This leads to an inflammatory reaction.

In the majority of people, seborrhoeic dermatitis isn't associated with any underlying conditions.

Symptoms can get worse when you're stressed, tired or generally unwell. You may notice that your symptoms are better in warmer weather and worse when it's cold.

The condition isn't caused by having very dry skin or being unclean and it isn't related to your diet. You can't catch it and pass it on to another person.

What are the treatment options for seborrhoeic dermatitis?

Creams, shampoos, and lotions are the main treatments for seborrheic dermatitis. Treatment includes:

  • Shampoos, creams or ointments that control inflammation.
  • Creams, antifungal creams or shampoos alternated with another medication.
  • Antifungal medication you take as a pill.

Treatment options will depend on your symptoms so it's best to speak with a dermatologist who will be able to advise further.

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