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Seborrheic Dermatitis – Causes, Symptoms And Treatments

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Seborrheic dermatitis may sound like a dangerous illness, but it’s not. It just makes your skin extra dry. If you have flaky, dry skin that appears in patches, then read on to understand everything you need to know about seborrheic dermatitis.

What Is Seborrheic Dermatitis?

It’s a common skin condition that affects oily areas of your body, i.e., face, scalp, eyebrows, eyelids, chest, and even your ears. Seborrheic dermatitis appears in scalp as patches under the red skin alongside very stubborn dandruff.

It is known to mainly attack your scalp, but it can show up in other places too. The patches can disappear without any treatment, but they return easily as well.

What Causes Seborrheic Dermatitis?

The cause of seborrheic dermatitis is unspecified by dermatologists. There are many speculations about it. Many believe it is the disruption of hormones and genes. Yeast infection can be another reason for seborrheic dermatitis. Fortunately, it is not a result of an allergy or a side effect. Seborrheic dermatitis can also be from an irregular response of the immune system causing the skin to lash out and become inflamed and itchy.

Since it occurs in places where there is excessive sebum production, it can be concluded that oily skin is the leading factor for seborrheic dermatitis. Another reason can be a disrupted central nervous system. Although there isn’t significant scientific backing for this cause, it is believed that people suffering from dementia or severe head injury are more likely to suffer from seborrheic dermatitis.

Also Read: What Causes Dry Skin & How To Get Rid Of It?

Signs And Symptoms

The first sign of seborrheic dermatitis starts with a rash that is red and scaly. Usually, they tend to ooze and weep. This mainly occurs on the scalp, outer ear, eyebrows, forehead, and the sides of the nose for adults. Less common areas include armpits, mid-back, and mid-chest regions. The scaling is often similar to dandruff where the flakes are thicker and bigger than the usual dandruff flakes.

For babies, this rash develops into ‘cradle cap’, which deals with thick dandruff-like flakes. They are itchy and crusty, and they need to be removed immediately. Both adults and children can have rashes with no symptoms, although it does cause an itching sensation.

Who Gets This?

People of all ages can develop this skin ailment. It affects babies under the age of three months and resolves by the time they reach six months. Also, men are more likely to be affected by seborrheic dermatitis than women.

People who are affected by a severe case of seborrheic dermatitis usually have –

  • Extra oily skin
  • Family history of seborrheic dermatitis
  • Stressful lives
  • Neurological condition such as nerve palsy, Parkinson’s disease, depression, epilepsy, etc.
  • Prolonged case of psoriasis

Patients whose immune system is compromised (those with HIV/AIDS) are more likely to develop this infliction.

Diagnosis Of Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is diagnosed after examining the skin. The dermatologist/doctor will scrape off some skin cells and send it to the lab for a biopsy. This is done to ensure the patient is not suffering from other skin ailments as seborrheic dermatitis has symptoms that are similar to diseases such as eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea.

Also Read: How To Find The Best Dermatologist Near You

Seborrheic Dermatitis Treatment

The first and foremost method to treat seborrheic dermatitis is by loosening the scales and soothing the skin to curb itching. The inflammation and swelling must be taken care of as well.

For mild cases, an antifungal cream or a medicated shampoo is applied topically to provide relief. Ingredients such as selenium sulfide, zinc pyrithione, coal tar, salicylic acid, and ketoconazole can be used to control the symptoms.

How To Cure Seborrheic Dermatitis

  • Scalp Treatment For Seborrheic Dermatitis

Alternating between medicated anti-dandruff shampoos with a regular shampoo will help fight against seborrheic dermatitis. Use as per the decline or development of the symptoms. Best anti-dandruff shampoos for you can be recommended by a dermatologist. In addition to this, a prescribed topical steroid can also be applied for additional benefit.

  • Face Treatment For Seborrheic Dermatitis

Wash the affected area gently with a cleanser that contains 2% zinc pyrithione. Follow it with a deep moisturizer. Use salicylic acid or coal tar to soften the scales. For extra care, a mild potent topical antifungal or steroid cream can be used on a frequent basis.

In case the seborrheic dermatitis is severe, a mild corticosteroid medication is required to soothe the inflammation. Since seborrheic dermatitis has the tendency to recur, it is necessary to use any prescribed medication regularly in order to control the symptoms.

Seborrheic Dermatitis Vs. Dandruff

Dandruff is an inflammatory skin disease similar to seborrheic dermatitis. It causes excessive skin flaking with dry skin, but there is no oozing or redness. It is milder than seborrheic dermatitis.

Seborrheic Dermatitis Vs. Psoriasis

Both diseases are similar in nature, and it can be difficult to distinguish one from the other.  They cause itchy, scaling, and dry skin. Seborrheic dermatitis produces eczematous dermatitis that has oozing, weepy appearance, whereas psoriasis creates plaques and papules on red, scaling skin.

An examination is required to understand the skin condition and to be able to precisely identify the problem.

How To Prevent Seborrheic Dermatitis?

Unfortunately, seborrheic dermatitis is unpreventable. One can take precautions by eating well and exercising on a daily basis. Remember to exfoliate twice a week and use moisturizer thoroughly post-shower every day. Avoid eating food that is rich in saturated and trans fat (i.e., animal fat, full-fat dairy, deep fried food, junk food).

If you are experiencing dry, itchy, red patches on your face or scalp, don’t ignore it. Treating and controlling seborrheic dermatitis can be done easily without any complications. Seek medical help immediately to counteract seborrheic dermatitis.

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About The Author

Kushneet Kukreja

Kushneet Kukreja

A postgraduate in Biotechnology from Kingston University and an ISSA Certified Specialist in Fitness & Nutrition, Kushneet Kukreja is a passionate writer who works in close association with the dermatologists at our head office to generate valuable and scientifically accurate content for our blog.


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