Seborrhoeic Dermatitis

Patches of red, scaly, itchy skin that occur mainly on the scalp, face, and chest

  • Stress can trigger an attack
  • Age, gender, and genetics are not significant factors

Seborrhoeic dermatitis is a rash that commonly occurs in infants and adults. In infants, either the scalp or the nappy area may be affected by the rash (see Cradle cap, and Nappy rash). In adults, the rash tends to occur on the central part of the face, the eyebrows, and the scalp, where it often leads to flaking of the skin. Seborrhoeic dermatitis can also develop in the armpits, the groin, or the middle of the chest. In men, the condition sometimes develops in the beard area.

The cause is unknown, but seborrhoeic dermatitis is sometimes linked with the overgrowth of a yeast-like substance that is present naturally on the surface of the skin. The condition can recur and flare-ups may be triggered by a period of stress or illness.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of seborrhoeic dermatitis may include the following:

  • Scaly, red patches of inflamed skin, often with a yellow crust.

  • Eyelids that are sore, red, and crusty (see Blepharitis).

  • Excessive dandruff.

  • Occasional itching of affected areas.

The rash may flare up intermittently over a period of months or years.

What might be done?

If a yeast overgrowth is diagnosed, your doctor may prescribe a topical corticosteroid or an antifungal cream. If your scalp is affected, he or she may recommend that you use an antifungal or coal tar shampoo. Both should produce a rapid improvement in symptoms.

Seborrhoeic dermatitis on the forehead

The forehead and eyebrows are common sites for seborrhoeic dermatitis. Flakes of skin may become trapped in the eyebrows.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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