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Seborrheic Dermatitis

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Seborrheic dermatitis is a common skin disorder. It usually occurs on the face, scalp, upper chest, back, etc. It is common in areas of the body that contain a large number of sebaceous glands, that is, oil producing glands.


Seborrheic dermatitis is not a serious condition. It is not contagious either. This disorder causes cosmetic embarrassments as it may appear on areas that are difficult to hide like the scalp, face and upper chest. This condition causes inflammation of the skin that occurs in areas containing sebaceous glands. It is common in infants and young adults. In infants, when it occurs only on the scalp it is referred to as cradle cap.

This rash causes white to yellow scales on the scalp, face, ears and other areas of the body. These scales are oily and looks like a bad case of dandruff. These rashes can also lead to red, scaly, oily patches on the skin. Other symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis may include an itchy skin that makes the affected sore and inflamed.


The exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis is unknown. It is thought to be a fungal infection of Malassezia. It tends to grow in the sebaceous glands along with other bacteria present on the skin. When they grow in large numbers, it may lead to seborrheic dermatitis. Some people suffer from seborrheic dermatitis due to change in the environment, like extreme winter or undergoing stressful physical as well as an emotional phase in life. Other conditions include hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, excessive vitamin A in the body, deficiency of vitamin B6, B2 or biotin. People with immunodeficiency diseases like HIV/AIDS also suffer from seborrhoeic dermatitis.


Diagnosis of seborrhoeic dermatitis includes taking down the medical history of the patient, noting down the symptoms, physical examination and carrying out a skin biopsy to rule our similar skin conditions.


The first thing to do is maintaining proper hygiene. The doctor will recommend use of medicated, antifungal and anti-inflammatory shampoos and lotions. The doctor may even advise topical cortisone creams to reduce the inflammation as well as itchiness. Antifungal agents that help in treating seborrheic dermatitis include ketoconazole, ciclopirox and terbinafine. These antifungal agents are available in the form of shampoos, creams, gels, etc. In case of seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp, the shampoos recommended contain zinc pyrithione, coal tar, selenium sulfide and salacyclic acid.

Make sure you use these products as directed and leave them on according to the prescribed time. This will help in making these medicated shampoos, creams, gels, etc. work effectively. Seborrheic dermatitis is not a disorder that occurs due to poor hygiene. It has changes of relapses, and thus causing a lot of embarresments at times due to its ugly appearance. However, following the treatment will help get rid of the condition in a few weeks. Infants should never be treated with any medicated over-the-counter shampoos, creams or gels without speaking to a doctor. With regular treatment, the condition will subside soon.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: February 25, 2015

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