Seborrheic Dermatitis – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Treatment
What is seborrheic dermatitis?
Seborrheic dermatitis is a common inflammatory skin condition. This condition causes flaky, white to yellowish scaly patches on oily areas such as the scalp, face, or inside the ear. It can occur with or without reddened skin.
What causes seborrheic dermatitis?
What exactly causes seborrheic dermatitis is not known to doctors and scientists. It is thought that it may be caused by the following combination of factors:
- Oil gland activity
- Yeasts called Malassezia, which live on the skin, mainly in areas with more oil glands
- Changes in skin barrier function
- Your Genes
The following are the risk factors for seborrheic dermatitis:
- Extreme weather conditions
- Oily skin
- Skin problems such as acne
- Heavy alcohol use
- Using lotions that contain alcohol
- Nervous system disorders, including Parkinson disease, traumatic brain injury, or stroke
- Having HIV/AIDS
What are the symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis?
Seborrheic dermatitis can occur on different parts of the body. It mostly develops where the skin is oily or greasy. It most often affects the scalp, eyebrows, eyelids, creases of the nose, lips, behind the ears, in the outer ear, and middle of the chest.
The following are the common symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis:
- Skin lesions with scales
- Plaques over a large area
- Greasy, oily areas of skin
- White and flaking, or yellowish skin scales
- Oily and sticky dandruff
- Mild redness
- Hair loss
How is seborrheic dermatitis diagnosed?
The doctor will perform a physical exam and review your symptoms. The examination focuses on skin and scalp to find skin lesions. A doctor can diagnose seborrheic dermatitis by looking at the appearance and location of the skin lesions. Tests are rarely needed.
How is seborrheic dermatitis treated?
Flaking and dryness can be treated with over-the-counter dandruff or medicated shampoos. These are available at the drugstores without a prescription. Use products that contain ingredients such as salicylic acid, coal tar, zinc, resorcin, ketoconazole, or selenium sulfide. The shampoo must be used according to label instructions.
If the seborrheic dermatitis is severe cases, your doctor may prescribe stronger shampoo, cream, ointment, or lotion containing one or more of the following medicines:
- Sodium sulfacetamide
- A corticosteroid
- Tacrolimus or pimecrolimus (immune suppressant medicines)
Your doctor may recommend phototherapy if needed. Phototherapy is a medical procedure in which your skin is carefully exposed to ultraviolet light.
Sunlight can also improve seborrheic dermatitis. It is observed that this condition gets better in the summer, especially after outdoor activities.
This feature is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute the expert guidance of a doctor. We advise seeing a doctor if you have any health concerns.