Seborrheic Dermatitis

What is Seborrheic Dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis is an inflammatory skin condition that is commonly associated with flaky, dandruff-like yellowy-white scales on the scalp. These flakes form on oily areas of the scalp and also inside the ear in some cases.

Some sufferers have red skin in the area and seborrheic dermatitis images can look angry and itchy. Sometimes known as adult cradle cap, seborrheic dermatitis may also affect infants and can cause irritability and excessive crying due to the irritation of the skin condition.

Causes of Seborrheic Dermatitis

The causes of seborrheic dermatitis vary amongst patients, with a number of possible risk factors contributing to the skin condition. One of the main factors implicated in the development of seborrheic dermatitis is the over-production of oil in the skin along with the presence of a specific type of yeast (malessizia) that causes skin irritation.

There are also hereditary factors involved in seborrheic dermatitis, with the condition running in families. Other contributors include stress, poor nutrition, the weather, oily skin, inconsistent hygiene, alcohol and other chemicals in shampoos and skin lotions or soaps, and other skin conditions such as acne which can increase inflammation in the areas of seborrheic dermatitis.

Conditions Associated with Seborrheic Dermatitis

seborrheic dermatitisSome patients with Parkinson’s Disease, or those who suffer other neurological conditions or trauma to the central nervous system (such as strokes or head injuries) are also thought more likely to develop seborrheic dermatitis.

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) has also been linked with an increased incidence of the skin irritation.

Symptoms of Seborrheic Dermatitis

Symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis include itchy dry skin which can occur in almost any area of skin on the body. The scalp is perhaps the most frequently affected, although some sufferers develop seborrheic dermatitis on the face, including the eyelids, cheeks, nose, forehead, and lips.

The skin behind the ear is also a commonly affected area, and the skin inside the ear may develop seborrheic dermatitis. Some patients develop the condition on their chest, legs, thighs, back, and on the hands. In a few cases seborrheic dermatitis can cause hair loss which often makes people feel more conscious of the condition as the skin is exposed.

Cradle Cap and Seborrheic Dermatitis

In infants the condition is called cradle cap and is usually temporary, often disappearing after three years of age. Seborrheic dermatitis in infants is noticeable as a scaling of the skin on the scalp, which can also be observed on the child’s face, including the eyelides, nose, ears, and also in the groin.

In such cases the condition is not normally connected to poor hygiene although many parents feel embarrassed about the appearance of their child’s skin. Seborrheic dermatitis in infants is not contagious either but may cause the child to feel itchy and irritable leading to scratching and possible infection if the skin is broken.

Diagnosis of Seborrheic Dermatitis

A proper diagnosis of seborrheic dermatitis involves assessment by a qualified dermatologist who can differentiate it from other skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea (if it occurs in areas commonly affected by the condition).

Where psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis occur together the skin condition is often more extreme and is labelled as sebopsoriasis. Seborrheic dermatitis is considered a chronic skin condition with periods of remission and flare-ups that need careful management to reduce suffering.

Read Next: Seborrheic dermatitis treatments and management.

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