Understanding Seborrheic Dermatitis

Author: FITivate | Published date: November 1, 2021 | Category: Medical
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Seborrheic dermatitis

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What is Seborrheic dermatitis?

It is a form of eczema where there is prominent inflammation on parts of the body where there are a lot of oil producing glands like the scalp, the eyebrow, the nose and the upper back. It will result in itching, redness of the skin and skin peeling and dandruff over the affected area.

The cause of Seborrheic dermatitis is still not fully understood. But it is believed to be genetical in origin and has also been linked with an overgrowth of a type of yeast on our skin called Malassezia furfur.

Who gets Seborrheic dermatitis?

It can occur classically in two groups of patients

  1. Infants
  2. Adults between 30-60 and more commonly in males than females.

Seborrheic dermatitis is also seen more commonly in patients with Parkinson’s disease and AIDS.

Common triggers of Seborrheic dermatitis

Common triggers for the onset of the condition include

  1. Stress and lack of sleep
  2. Hormonal changes
  3. Cold, dry weather
  4. Harsh detergents, solvents and soaps
  5. Some medications like lithium, psoralen.

Seborrheic dermatitis in infants – Cradle cap

Infants with seborrheic dermatitis often have a classical presentation called cradle cap.

This will appear as scaly, greasy, yellowish looking patches over the scalp and sometimes on their bottoms. This is usually harmless and will resolve on its own most of the time. It is also non-contagious.

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Treating Seborrheic dermatitis

For infants

You could help your child remove the excess scales by applying coconut oil or olive oil on their scalp for 3-4 hours before washing it off with a gentle hydrating shampoo like Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo or Cetaphil baby shampoo.

For adults

In adults, treatment of Seborrheic dermatitis includes a combination of

  • Antifungal cream to remove the overgrowth of yeast on our skin.
  • For the scalp,antifungal shampoo is also very helpful.

Some examples of anti fungal shampoo includes - nizoral shampoo, selsun or selenium sulphide shampoo,

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  • Steroid creams or lotions can also be applied on the affected areas to reduce the itch and inflammation. However these have to be advised by your doctor has long term steroid use has its associated side effects.
  • If you have thick scalp scales - cocois ointment ( which is a combination of salicylic acid + coal tar + coconut oil and sulphur ) would be very useful in helping remove excess scales.

By : Dr Chen Yiming

Family Physician, MBBS (Singapore), GDFM (NUS), GDFP Dermatology (NUS)

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