What is Seborrhea?

Seborrheic dermatitis (seborrhea) is a common inflammatory skin problem that most often occurs on the head or body areas where sweat glands are present. It causes a red, itchy rash and white scales. This condition is more common in men than in woment, usually appearing first in the teenage years and twenties and waxing and waning thoughout adulthood.

Seborrhea affectin the scalp is commonly known as "dandruff." Other parts of the face may be affected as well, icluding the folds around the nose and behind the ears, external ear canals, the forhead, and the eyebrows and eyelids. Areas on the body where seborrhea may occur are the middle part of the chest, around the navel and in the skin folds under the arms, below the breasts and in the groin and buttocks areas.

While the cause of seborrhea is not known, it is thought that hormones and stress are involved. Because it is sometimes successfully treated with antifungal medications, it is thought that a yeast is part of the developement of the condition. When infants get seborrhea, it is known as "cradle cap." This typically disappears after about 6 months.

Good hygiene plays a key role in keeping seborrhea under control. Frequent cleansing with soap removes oils from affected areas and improves seborrhea. Exercising outdoors, especially during the summer, has been found to be helpful in treating the condition. Sunlight seems to stop growth of the yeast organisms that causes the inflammation. Do not forget the sunscreen, however.

Medicated shampoos are available to control dandruff. Some brand names are DHS Tar, Neutogena T/Gel, Polytar, Tegrin Medicated, Denorex, Danex, Zincon, DHS Zinc, Sebulon, Head & Shoulders, Selsun Blue, Selsun, Exsel, X-Seb T, Sebulex, and Nizoral. When using dandruff shampoo, wt the hair and rub some shampoo into the scalp and hair. Leave the shampoo on the scalp and hair for a minimum of 5 minutes before rinsing. Use the dandruff shampoo every day until the dandruff disappears. Continue use of the medicated shampoo 2 to 3 times a week to control the problem.

Medicated shampoos applied to the face or body may control seborrhea. Other treatments include sulfur products, topical corticosteroids, and topical antifungals. Some products require a prescription, so ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

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This page was last updated on: Thursday, June 15, 2000
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