Seborrheic dermatitis has a strange name but it is a fairly common skin disorder. It is embarrassing but is not contagious or harmful. Many of us call it dandruff, however it is more than that and is not a simple flaky scalp. (Light flaking, without itching, is usually dry scalp that can be treated with moisturizers.)
Seborrheic dermatitis is manifested in scaly, itchy, stubborn dandruff and red skin. It is most common on the scalp but can also affect the face, chest, back and any other oily part of the body.
What does it look like?
You may see patchy scaling or crusty areas on your scalp.
There may be yellow or white scales that attach themselves to the hair shaft.
There may be small reddish-brown bumps on your scalp.
It may begin with simple flaky skin or dandruff.
In infants, seborrheic dermatitis is called cradle cap. It has the same signs and symptoms as it does in adults except that, fortunately, it does not itch.
What causes seborrheic dermatitis?
Like many other skin disorders, the cause of seborrheic dermatitis isnít known although there are several factors that seem to contribute to it. Those with this disorder seem to have abnormal sebum (oil) production. They produce more oil than necessary for natural skin lubrication.
Some people may have a yeast or fungus called malassezia that grows in the sebum along with bacteria. Antifungal treatments are often effective in treating it.
There is some thought that outbreaks are linked to the production of certain hormones. It is also thought to be related to physical stress, fatigue or illness. The seasons also play a role. Outbreaks seem to be worse in the winter months and cold climates. It is also thought that seborrheic dermatitis occurs more frequently in people who have neurological conditions such as Parkinsonís disease.
Many people successfully treat this disorder themselves using over the counter anti-fungal shampoos and treatments, however there are times that it is best to visit your physician for treatment.
If the disorder persists even though you are treating it yourself or if your scalp is sore and feels as though it may be infected, see a doctor. If the condition is so uncomfortable that it keeps you awake at night or is distracting during the day, it is time to seek medical attention.