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Seborrheic Dermatitis1

What is Seborrheic dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis is an inflammatory skin disease that typically appears predominantly on the scalp, but can also appear on skin folds and oily areas of your skin such as eyebrows, nose, upper lip, chest, and behind the ears. In infants, the condition is called 'Cradle cap' and is a harmless, temporary condition that is not contagious.

Symptoms of Seborrheic dermatitis

Areas affected by Seborrheic dermatitis may appear red with scaly white or yellow patches. Affected areas may also be sore and itchy. It may cause hair loss and bleeding if the condition is severe.

Causes of Seborrheic dermatitis

In normal conditions, the oil glands produce oil (sebum) as required to lubricate the skin. However, when sebum is secreted in larger quantities and occurs with a yeast called Malassezia, you may suffer from seborrheic dermatitis. Some factors may increase your risk of developing seborrheic dermatitis. They include:

  • Extreme weather changes
  • Stress
  • Use of cosmetics containing alcohol
  • Oily skin
  • Dandruff
  • Poor skin hygiene
  • Existing disease conditions - Obesity, Parkinson's disease, and stroke
  • Infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) may worsen the condition

Seborrheic dermatitis is a treatable skin condition and is not a communicable disease.

Treatment for Seborrheic dermatitis

In the case of oily scalp, you should wash your hair daily with the shampoos prescribed by your dermatologist, that contain compounds like zinc, coal tar, and salicylic acid. Antifungal creams/lotions may also be recommended. Hair sprays should not be used during this condition.

Considering the severity of the disease, dermatologists may prescribe certain medications such as immunosuppressants, ketoconazole topical preparation, corticosteroids, desonide, keratolytic, tacrolimus ointment, or pimecrolimus (Elidel cream 1%).

Some of these drugs are anti-inflammatory which reduces the swelling of the affected areas and some of these should be taken orally. The ointments and creams are applied to the infected places 1- 2 times a day with a gentle massage. If you have severe itchiness and bleeding, you may be advised to apply these creams/lotions more than twice a day.

Consult your doctor to know more about seborrheic dermatitis and other treatment options available.