Seborrheic Dermatitis

What is Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is a skin disease that causes red, scaly patches. It usually occurs on the scalp, and it is often called dandruff. The patches may appear on other parts of the body.

Skin patches tend to appear where there are many oil glands in the skin. Areas of the body that are commonly affected include:

  • Scalp.
  • Skin folds of the body.
  • Ears.
  • Eyebrows.
  • Neck.
  • Face.
  • Armpits.
  • The bearded area of men’s faces.

The condition may come and go for no known reason, and it is often long-lasting (chronic).

What are the causes?

The cause of this condition is not known.

What increases the risk?

This condition is more likely to develop in people who:

  • Have certain conditions, such as:
    • HIV (human immunodeficiency virus).
    • AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).
    • Parkinson disease.
    • Mood disorders, such as depression.
  • Are 40–60 years old.

What are the signs or symptoms?

Symptoms of this condition include:

  • Thick scales on the scalp.
  • Redness on the face or in the armpits.
  • Skin that is flaky. The flakes may be white or yellow.
  • Skin that seems oily or dry but is not helped with moisturizers.
  • Itching or burning in the affected areas.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition is diagnosed with a medical history and physical exam. A sample of your skin may be tested (skin biopsy). You may need to see a skin specialist (dermatologist).

How is this treated?

There is no cure for this condition, but treatment can help to manage the symptoms. You may get treatment to remove scales, lower the risk of skin infection, and reduce swelling or itching. Treatment may include:

  • Creams that reduce swelling and irritation (steroids).
  • Creams that reduce skin yeast.
  • Medicated shampoo, soaps, moisturizing creams, or ointments.
  • Medicated moisturizing creams or ointments.

Follow these instructions at home:

  • Apply over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.
  • Use any medicated shampoo, soaps, skin creams, or ointments only as told by your health care provider.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your health care provider. This is important.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • Your symptoms do not improve with treatment.
  • Your symptoms get worse.
  • You have new symptoms.

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