What Is Seborrheic Dermatitis?


5/15/21

Seborrheic dermatitis is a common skin disease that causes a red, flaky rash that can be itchy. It can also cause light patches on darker skin. Other names for it include dandruff, cradle cap, seborrhea, seborrheic eczema, and seborrheic psoriasis.

It often looks like psoriasis, eczema, or an allergic reaction. The most common location is on your scalp, but other common locations include the eyebrows, around the nose and ears and on the chest.

Most people will have a dry, white scale over pink to red skin in affected areas. Some of the affected areas, especially the scalp may be itchy.

Seborrheic Dermatitis Causes

No one knows the exact causes of seborrheic dermatitis. In different people it may be caused by different factors or by more than one factor. The following all seem to play a role in seborrheic dermatitis:

  • Stress
  • Your genes
  • A yeast that is a normal resident of your skin
  • Certain medical conditions and medicines
  • Cold, dry weather
  • Your immune system

What triggers seborrheic dermatitis?
It is believed main cause of seborrheic dermatitis is the skin’s reaction to the Malassesia, a type of yeast found naturally on the skin. The yeast lives normally and harmlessly on the skin of most people, but in some people their immune system reacts to the yeast and causes inflammation, giving the characteristic redness and scale. It does not come from an allergy or from being unclean.

What foods trigger seborrheic dermatitis?
We don’t know of any food triggers for seborrheic dermatitis however, one study has suggested that the “western” diet high in meats and processed food might trigger seborrheic dermatitis.

Seborrheic Dermatitis Risk Factors

Newborns and adults ages 30 to 60 are the most likely to get seborrheic dermatitis. It is more common in men than women and in people with oily skin. These conditions also increase a person’s risk:

  • Acne
  • AIDS
  • Alcoholism
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Epilepsy
  • Heart attack or stroke recovery
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Psoriasis
  • Rosacea

Seborrheic Dermatitis Symptoms

Seborrheic dermatitis is seen in babies before the age 3 months and usually goes away before the first year. In children it is seen on the scalp and face and occasionally in the diaper area and can be mistaken for diaper rash.

Seborrheic Dermatitis can come back again in puberty or at any time in adulthood. Adults get seborrheic dermatitis on the face, especially around the nose, in the eyebrows, on the eyelids, or behind the ears, on the scalp and occasionally the chest:

Your skin might itch or burn. The scales that flake off could be white or yellowish and look moist or oily.

Seborrheic Dermatitis Diagnosis

The diagnosis is made primarily by doctor’s exam of your skin and questions about your medical history. Rarely a biopsy of the skin is needed to rule out other conditions. Other conditions that can look like seborrheic dermatitis is include:

  • Psoriasis.
  • Eczema (atopic dermatitis).
  • Rosacea.
  • Allergic reaction.
  • Systemic lupus erythematous (SLE)

Seborrheic Dermatitis Treatment

How do you get rid of seborrheic dermatitis?

For seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp, using an over-the-counter dandruff shampoo is a good place to start. Washing your scalp more frequently when your flaring is helpful. You should look for one of these ingredients:

  • Ketoconazole
  • Salicylic acid
  • Selenium sulfide
  • Zinc pyrithione

For seborrheic dermatitis on your face and body the initial treatment is usually a topical cream or lotion with one of the following ingredients:

  • Antifungal
  • Corticosteroid
  • Calcineurin inhibitors

If the seborrheic dermatitis is severe or resistant to treatment, an antifungal pill or even an injection into the affected area might be used to help clear the skin.

What vitamins help seborrheic dermatitis?

Fish oil supplements may help suppress flare-ups of seborrheic dermatitis but there is not strong evidence to support this.

Should I moisturize seborrheic dermatitis?

Moisturizing will help control some of the symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis but it will not treat the underlying cause like medications used to treat the condition.

New Treatments

At SullivanDermatology we are currently conducting a clinical trial of a new treatment for seborrheic dermatitis. For more information click here: Seborrheic Dermatitis Trial.

To learn more or if you suspect you have seborrheic dermatitis, please call our office today or book online to schedule a comprehensive consultation.

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