Seborrheic Dermatitis

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Seborrheic Dermatitis

What is seborrheic dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis, a key cause of dandruff, is a common skin condition that mainly occurs on the scalp. Scaly, red skin as well as persistent flaking of the scalp are common symptoms. Seborrheic dermatitis can also affect oily parts of your body, including the face, eyebrows and eyelids, ears, and chest. In infants, this skin condition is commonly known as cradle cap and causes crusty, scaly skin on the child’s scalp.

This condition sometimes goes away without medical treatment. Your dermatologist can help you treat persistent, symptomatic or recurring seborrheic dermatitis.

Why does seborrheic dermatitis occur?

The cause of seborrheic dermatitis is complex and thought to be caused by several factors occurring at the same time. The scalp produces natural oils called sebum, and the microbe breaks it down into oleic acid, which naturally irritates the skin. The body’s natural reaction is to produce new skin cells. These accumulate on the scalp and begin to flake off as dandruff. A normally occurring yeast (Malassezia family), hormonal changes during adolescence, weather, underlying medical conditions and even times of stress can work together to trigger an outbreak of seborrheic dermatitis. Seborrheic dermatitis is not a result of poor hygiene.

How dermatologists diagnose seborrheic dermatitis

Your dermatologist will make a visual examination of your scalp, looking closely for patches of scaly skin, flaking dead skin and signs of redness or inflammation. A thorough history will also help with the diagnosis.

How dermatologists treat seborrheic dermatitis

Your dermatologist will likely recommend a regimen of cleaning the scalp through good hygiene in combination with prescription solutions and shampoos to address the underlying skin condition.

Other treatment options for seborrheic dermatitis include antifungal creams that reduce the production of yeast. These prescription preparations can include azole, selenium sulfide and pyrithione zinc. Topical corticosteroids may also be prescribed to reduce inflammation and scaly skin cells from the scalp.