What is seborrheic dermatitis?

Seborrhoea is also known as Seborrheic Dermatitis (or seborrheic eczema) and is a chronic, relapsing form of mild dermatitis. It is characterised by red, itchy rashes on scalp having flaky scales. Seborrhoea looks like other common skin diseases like psoriasis, eczema or other allergies. While it is very common in scalp, it can also appear in other places including eyebrows, behind the ears or anywhere else with oily skin.

What are the symptoms of dandruff and seborrhoea?

When seborrhoea appears on the skin, it causes the dry itchiness and red scales. If it appears on the scalp, it creates white flakes and is called dandruff. Seborrhoea is also common on some parts of the face including the nasolabial folds, behind the ears, forehead, eyebrow and eyelids. Some parts of the chest, navel and skin folds including underarms can be affected by seborrhoea.

Differentiating seborrhoea from other skin conditions

Seborrhoea can be differentiated from other conditions like psoriasis and other skin diseases by its characteristic features. This includes a swollen or greasy appearance, white or yellowish crusty scale on the surface, scaly patches and itching accompanied by flaking.

Why dermatologist treatment for seborrhoea is a must?

Seborrhoea or seborrhic dermatitis is a long term condition. It does not affect the overall health but causes a lot of embarrassment and discomfort. Contrary to popular belief, seborrhoea is neither contagious nor a sign of poor personal hygiene. But, it takes a prolonged treatment with a certified best dermatologist in india to reduce the symptoms.

What are the causes of seborrhoea?

The main causes of seborrhoea cannot be pinpointed to individual reasons but there are a few commonly understood things that dermatologists believe lead to seborrhoea.

  • Hereditary / genetic causes- It is understood that hereditary causes play a vital role in seborrhoea, and can pass over to members of a family genetically. Mostly because skin diseases commonly follow a genetic path, it is only natural that seborrhoea is carried over in the genetic makeup from one generation to the next.
  • Cold, dry weather- Clichéd as it may sound, cold dry weather leads to many skin problems, including dry skin and skin aging. Seborrhoea, or seborrhoeic dermatitis which in itself a skin disease similar to psoriasis, can also be caused due to prolonged exposure to dry air or cold weather. If it is already present, cold weather can aggravate seborrhoea.
  • Weak immune system- When the fight against the fungal and bacterial infections is not full fledged, many infections and subsequent diseases might easily develop, Seborrhoea is no exception, with a weak immune system combined with genetic history contributing to the onset and development of the disease.
  • Malassezia – Malassezia is a type of fungus, a skin yeast that when it grows excessively causes skin flaking and affects the skin very badly. While it is being debated whether or not this fungal infection is really a primary cause or just a mere secondary phenomenon, the influence of malassezia in seborrhoea cannot be undermined.
  • Other medical conditions- When a patient is prone to or has history of other medical conditions, it is agreed amongst dermatologists that the chances of seborrhoea setting in are highly likely. Because the skin has already lost its immune power, and has opened itself up to flaking, redness, itchiness etc, seborrhoea can also become another disease added to the list.
  • Oily skin- This again contradicts the original misconception that dandruff is a by product of dry skin. Fact be known that oily skin in fact aggravates dandruff and lets it accumulate until the condition worsens. This means oily skin is a huge cause for seborrhoea.
  • Stress- Increasing stress levels have also been linked with seborrhoea and it is interesting to note the list of other accompanying diseases that might set in because of the stress induced hormonal imbalances.

What is the diagnosis and treatment?

Seborrhoea is one of those diseases that can occur and clear at random, but once it does come, the chances of it reoccurring are higher. The diagnosis and treatment of seborrhoea are done on clinical grounds based on previous history and genetic conditions. A skin biopsy is done to rule out cases of acute or chronic intensities and a fungal culture is done to rule out tinea capitis.

Since seborrhoea can also be a contact dermatitis type of disease, care is taken to note the presence of allergens or aggravating factors in the hair care products used. All cosmetics including perfume sprays and lotions are revised for usage and based on trial and error, stopped completely.

Other treatment measures like changing shampoos, trying to correct oily skin and proper hair and skin care can help cases of seborrhoea to reduce. Coal tar, ketoconazole, salicylic acid, selenium sulphide, zinc pyrithione are all proven effective against seborrhoea.

The best combinations of treatments, though, are medication and lifestyle changes that might help in the cure or reduction of seborrhoea or its causes.

For more information:

Dr. Rinky Kapoor is a cosmetic dermatologist and trichologist practicing in Mumbai, India. She is a co founder of The Esthetic Clinics and is associated with the Fortis Hospitals, Mumbai, India. She is an accomplished dermato- surgeon who advocates usage of revolutionary techniques in skincare and other cosmetic treatments.

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