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Seborrhoeic dermatitis: Treatment, symptoms, advice & help

About seborrhoeic dermatitis

Seborrhoeic dermatitis is a harmless skin condition affecting the oily areas of the scalp, face, chest and trunk. Dermatitis of the scalp is commonly known as ‘dandruff’ and characterised by white flakes on the scalp associated with itching.

Seborrhoeic dermatitis: Incidence, age and sex

Seborrhoeic dermatitis affects 3 to 5% of individuals in the general population. Teenagers and young adults are more frequently afflicted; although it may occur in any age group, starting from infancy to old age. Men are more susceptible to seborrhoeic dermatitis as compared with women. Its incidence is higher during the humid season and winters.

Signs and symptoms of seborrhoeic dermatitis: Diagnosis

Seborrhoeic dermatitis usually appears as scaly or flaky skin lesions affecting the skin of the scalp, chest and the trunk. The skin folds in arms, legs and groin may also be affected by seborrhoeic dermatitis due to their high sebum content. Seborrhoeic dermatitis may also affect the eyebrows, eyelashes and the folds near the nose. The skin lesions are usually associated with burning and itching. Seborrhoeic dermatitis is contagious and may spread from one part of the body to another.

Physical examination can easily lead to its detection and it does not require any tests for establishing the diagnosis.

Causes and prevention of seborrhoeic dermatitis

The exact cause of seborrhoeic dermatitis is not clear, but it has shown to run in families suggesting a genetic or hereditary factor. Decreased immunity may trigger the occurrence of seborrhoeic dermatitis which has also been linked to infection by yeast Malassezia. Several medications like gold, cimetidine, chlorpromazine or methyldopa have also been known to trigger this skin ailment. Individuals with HIV disease, Parkinson’s, or stroke are also prone to get seborrhoeic dermatitis. Moreover, emotional stress, fatigue and change of season are some other factors that may trigger or aggravate this skin ailment.

Seborrhoeic dermatitis: Complications

Seborrhoeic dermatitis usually does not lead to any complications. However, excessive scratching may cause secondary bacterial infection of the affected skin.

Seborrhoeic dermatitis: Treatment

The treatment of seborrhoeic dermatitis depends upon its location on the body. Medicated shampoo containing selenium sulphide or zinc pyrithone may be used 2 times a week for about a month. Steroid lotion may be prescribed in cases of persistent dermatitis of the scalp. Seborrhoeic dermatitis in other areas of the body including skin folds, require steroid lotion or anti-fungal cream. In cases of persistence, oral anti-fungal medication can be prescribed for good results.