Seborrheic Dermatitis (cont.)
Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD
Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- Seborrheic dermatitis facts
- What is seborrheic dermatitis?
- What are risk factors for seborrheic dermatitis?
- What causes seborrheic dermatitis?
- What are seborrheic dermatitis symptoms and signs?
- How is seborrheic dermatitis diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for seborrheic dermatitis?
- What are complications of seborrheic dermatitis?
- What is the prognosis of seborrheic dermatitis?
- Can seborrheic dermatitis be prevented?
- Find a local Doctor in your town
What are seborrheic dermatitis symptoms and signs?
The rash itself is characteristically red and scaling but occasionally can become weepy and oozy. The scaling can be extensive enough to be called dandruff and can be the patient's major complaint.
The distribution of this rash is often of great help in making the diagnosis. In adults areas commonly involved include the scalp, the outer ear and external auditory canal, the forehead, the brows, the eyelids, the cheeks adjacent to the nose, including the folds that extends from the nose to the sides of the mouth, and less commonly the armpits, the mid-chest, and mid-back regions. In babies, the rash causes a scalp eruption commonly called "cradle cap." It can also be more extensive and involve the diaper area as well. Although in both adults and children the rash may have no symptoms, it commonly causes itching, especially in the scalp.
How is seborrheic dermatitis diagnosed?
The diagnosis of seborrheic dermatitis is almost always made clinically, meaning that the doctor knows it when he/she sees it. Occasionally, a scraping of skin under a drop of potassium hydroxide is examined under a microscope to exclude a fungal infection. It would be rare that a skin biopsy would be required for diagnosis.
What is the treatment for seborrheic dermatitis?
Treatment of hair-bearing areas, like the scalp, often includes the use of a shampoo that may contain one or more of the following ingredients:
- antifungal antibiotic
- zinc pyrithione
- selenium sulfide
In addition, the application of a topical steroid lotion or solution of weak to moderate potency is popular.
For non-hair-bearing areas, the application of a weak to moderately potent topical steroid or topical antifungal cream is frequently effective. The use of tacrolimus (Protopic) or pimecrolimus (Elidel) ointments can be effective but is quite an expensive alternative.
It needs to be stressed that since this condition is incurable but easily controllable, if the disease is active and the treatment is stopped, one should expect the seborrheic dermatitis to recur. One should also use effective medications just enough to control the symptoms. Excessive treatment of apparently normal skin is economically wasteful as well as potentially dangerous.
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