Seborrheic Dermatitis

1 What is Seborrheic Dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis or cradle cap in infants, is a skin condition causes scaly patches, red skin and stubborn dandruff. It usually affects the scalp although it can affect other oily areas of the body such as the face, upper chest and back.

It is neither  a contagious disease nor a sign of poor personal hygiene. It is a long-term condition that requires repeated treatments for symptoms to disappear. Symptoms may return in some people.

2 Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis include:

  • Skin flakes (dandruff) on the scalp, hair, eyebrows, beard or mustache.
  • Patches of greasy skin covered by flaky white or yellow scales or crusts.
  • Red skin.
  • Reddish or crusting of the eyelids (blepharitis).
  • Itching or stinging.
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3 Causes

Although the exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis remains unknown, several factors that are associated with it have been found.

They include:

  • Yeast fungal infections.
  • Inflammatory processes related to psoriasis.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Making a diagnosis of seborrheic dermatitis is done during biopsy of the skin.

A biopsy of the skin is usually taken to examine the skin cells under a microscope. This enables doctors to differentiate seborrheic dermatitis from other skin conditions with similar symptoms.

5 Treatment

The main treatments for seborrheic dermatitis include medicated shampoos, creams and lotions. Doctors may recommend:

  • Creams, shampoos and ointments that contain anti-inflammatory medications such as corticosteroids.
  • Antifungal shampoo which may contain ketoconazole.
  • Creams or gels that have anti-bacterial effects.
  • Photochemotherapy- a treatment procedure in which a patient takes psoralen by mouth or applied to the skin and then exposed to ultraviolet light.

6 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Although several alternative remedies for seborrheic dermatitis exist, there is no evidence to suggest that they are effective. They include:

  • Tea tree oil
  • Fish oil products that contain omega-3 fatty acids
  • Aloe vera cream it can be applied to the skin twice a day for four to six weeks.

Home remedies like washing hair with medicated anti-dandruff shampoo can prove to be helpful. Over-the-counter anti-dandruff shampoo include:

  • Shampoo with pyrithione zinc (Head &Shoulders) or selenium (Selsun Blue)
  • Shampoo with antifungal ketoconazole
  • Tar shampoo (Neutrogena T/Gel, DHS Tar)
  • Salicylic acid shampoo (Nuetrogena T/Sal)

7 Risks and Complications

Factors that may increase the risk of having seborrheic dermatitis include:

  • Neurological or psychiatric conditions like Parkinson's disease and depression.
  • A weakened immune system as seen in patients with HIV/AIDS.
  • Congestive heart failure.
  • Endocrine diseases like diabetes.
  • Certain medications.
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