Seborrheic Dermatitis Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Seborrheic Dermatitis

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Faculty of Medical, Clinical and Veterinary Sciences

Skin Problems

Human Skin | Dry Skin | Psoriasis | Eczema | Greasy Skin | Dandruff | Acne | Rosacea | Seborrheic Dermatitis | Skin Cancer | Non-melanoma Skin Cancer | Melanoma | Hereditary Skin Cancer | Sensible sun exposure

Seborrheic Dermatitis (SD) often appears as a severe form of dandruff. Sometimes anti-dandruff shampoos can help the condition, but frequently stronger prescription-only treatments may be necessary. A visit to the doctor is necessary to confirm the problem, to ensure the correct type of treatment is being used.

SD is typified by large, greasy flakes, sometimes grey or yellowish in colour, that can crop up not only on the scalp, but anywhere prone to hairiness, such as the eyebrows, chest, genitals, and beards and moustaches. The outer ear is another common area affected. It is often accompanied by redness and swelling in the affected areas and accompanied by an often intense itching.

Cradle cap in babies is another type of seborrheic dermatitis, although in this instance it isn't chronic and will usually clear up within months. The treatment for such young children is obviously milder than that used on adults.

It can often appear for the first time when the body's immune system is weak or after major trauma - it's often seen in the elderly after a heart attack or stroke, although the reasons for this aren't yet understood. It also tends to get worse during the winter.

Treatment often involves corticosteroid1 creams; as usual with these, care must be taken to avoid skin atrophy2, but increasingly success is being found with certain anti-fungal treatments, indicating that a yeast infection may be the root cause.

Coal tar creams are another common treatment, these work by slowing down cell reproduction, but do have be drawbacks of being smelly and staining everything they touch yellow.

Salicylic acid is also commonly used. It doesn't treat the root cause of the problem, all it does is help lift the scaling so it washes away easier. However, this type of treatment can be all that milder cases need, as well as easing symptoms in more severe cases.

1Hydrocortisone is the commonest of these.2Thinning of the skin and stretch marks associated with long term corticosteroid use.

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