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Seborrheic Dermatitis

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Seborrheic dermatitis facts

  • Seborrheic dermatitis is probably the single most common inflammatory skin condition affecting humans aside from acne vulgaris.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis is highly treatable but incurable.
  • The course of seborrheic dermatitis is characterized by spontaneous remissions and exacerbations.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis affects all ages.

What is seborrheic dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic inflammation of skin that typically waxes and wanes. Seborrheic dermatitis causes red scaling, occasionally with weepy, oozy eruption. Seborrheic dermatitis commonly involves portions of the scalp, brows, mid-face, ears, mid-chest, and mid-back. It is not unusual for it to affect the skin of infants and young children where it often involves the scalp (cradle cap) and the diaper area. Seborrheic dermatitis is also known as seborrhea.

Seborrheic dermatitis vs. psoriasis

Since both of these conditions can affect the scalp with an itchy scaling dermatitis, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish one from the other. Aside from scalp involvement, psoriasis typically involves anatomically different areas of skin than seborrheic dermatitis. In addition, seborrheic dermatitis is an eczematous dermatitis producing a weepy, oozing appearance. Psoriasis produces papules and plaques of scaling red skin. A biopsy examination of the skin is often sufficient to precisely identify the cause.

Seborrheic dermatitis vs. dandruff

Dandruff is simply a sign of the excessive production of skin. It can be seen in a number of inflammatory skin diseases, including seborrhea and psoriasis.

Picture of seborrheic dermatitis along the hairline
Picture of seborrheic dermatitis along the hairline; photo courtesy of Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/9/2017


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