What is Seborrheic Dermatitis

What is seborrheic dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis is an inflammation of the upper layers of skin, characterized by red, itchy skin that sheds scales. A hereditary condition, seborrheic dermatitis is often aggravated by cold weather conditions.

Seborrheic dermatitis is most common during:

  • infancy
    In infants, the condition is also called "cradle cap," because of its characteristic scaly appearance on the scalp. However, cradle cap can also occur in the diaper area. Seborrheic dermatitis in this age group usually clears up on its own within the first year.

  • middle age
    When seborrheic dermatitis occurs at this age, the condition is usually more intermittent.

  • old age
    When seborrheic dermatitis occurs at this age, the condition is usually more intermittent.

Persons with oily skin or hair are also more at risk for developing seborrheic dermatitis.

What are the symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis?

The following are some of the other symptoms associated with seborrheic dermatitis. However, each person may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • itching scalp

  • dry or greasy scales on the scalp

  • a yellow or red scaly rash along the hairline, behind the ears, in the ear canal, on the eyebrows, around the nose, and/or on the chest

The symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis may resemble other skin conditions. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

How is seborrheic dermatitis diagnosed?

A complete medical history and physical examination helps the physician in diagnosing seborrheic dermatitis.

Treatment for seborrheic dermatitis:

Specific treatment for seborrheic dermatitis will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your age, overall health, and medical history

  • extent of the condition

  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • expectations for the course of the condition

  • your opinion or preference

Although the condition responds to treatment, it may recur. Treatment is usually effective in alleviating symptoms and may include:

  • corticosteroid cream or lotion

  • anti-fungal topicals (such as ciclopirox)

  • medicated shampoo for adults, as prescribed by your physician

Medical Reviewer: [Foster, Sara RN MPH, Jenkins, Lee] Last Annual Review Date: 2011-06-01T00:00:00-06:00 Copyright: © 2007 Staywell Content Services, Inc. except where otherwise noted.


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