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Seborrheic dermatitis – symptoms, causes and other risk factors

This is a very common skin condition which mainly is affecting the scalp. Seborrheic dermatitis is causing stubborn dandruff, red skin and scaly patches. This condition can also affect the oily areas of your body, such as chest, eyelids, ears, eyebrows and sides of the nose. This condition can go away without treatment. But there are many cases when people need many repeated treatments before the symptoms go away. The symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis may return later. It is known that the daily cleansing with shampoo and gentle soap can help to reduce the oiliness and dead skin buildup.

Seborrheic dermatitis also has other names, such as seborrheic psoriasis, seborrheic eczema and dandruff. In infants, seborrheic dermatitis is known as cradle cap and it is causing crusty and scaly patches on the scalp [1]. This condition is highly treatable but incurable. The seborrheic dermatitis can affect people from all ages. You should know that the seborrheic dermatitis is not contagious. When some adult get seborrheic dermatitis, then this condition can come and go for the rest of someone’s life. When the weather turns cold and dry, then flare – ups are common. Also stress can be trigger factors for seborrheic dermatitis [2]. There are many treatments which can reduce flare – ups and they can give you a relief from the symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis.

Seborrheic dermatitis symptoms

Here are some signs and symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis:

  • Itching
  • Red skin
  • Patches of greasy skin covered with flaky white or yellow scales or crust on the groin area, armpits, chest, eyelids, ears, eyebrows, sides of nose, face, scalp or under the breasts
  • Skin flakes (dandruff) on your scalp, hair, mustache, beard or eyebrows

If you are stressed, then the signs and symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis can be more severe and they tend to flare in cold and dry seasons [2]. You need to talk with your doctor if you have tried self – care steps and they are without success. If you suspect that your skin is infected, then do not hesitate to ask your doctor. If your condition is embarrassing and anxiety, then visit your doctor as soon as possible. Also you should visit your doctor if you are so uncomfortable that you are losing sleep or being distracted from your daily routines. Your doctor will refer you to dermatologist which can help in the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis. Your dermatologist will look your medical history and he or she will examine your skin and will look closely at the rash.

Seborrheic dermatitis Symptoms and Causes

Seborrheic dermatitis Causes

 Doctors do not know the exact cause for seborrheic dermatitis. There are many studies in which the cause for seborrheic dermatitis is still studied. From all studies, what have learned doctors is that the cause for seborrheic dermatitis is complex. It seems that there are many factors which are working together to cause seborrheic dermatitis. This condition can be related to:

  • An irregular response of the immune system
  • Stress [2]
  • Living in a cold and dry climate [3]
  • A person’s overall health
  • A yeast (fungus) called malassezia that is in the oil secretion of the skin [4]

It is known that the seborrheic dermatitis is not caused by poor personal hygiene. Also it is known that it is not allergy and it does not harm the body. It is known that people from all ages and all colors can get seborrheic dermatitis.

Risk factors: There are many different factors which are increasing your risk of developing seborrheic dermatitis, such as

  • Some medications (If you are taking: Psoralen; Lithium or Interferon, then you have higher chances of getting seborrheic dermatitis) [5]
  • Recovery from stressful medical conditions, such as heart attack or stroke [2]
  • When you have a weakened immune system. It is happening in cases that are seen in organ transplant recipients and people with HIV/AIDS, alcoholic pancreatitis and some cancers. It is known that about 85% of people who are infected with HIV are developing seborrheic dermatitis. [6]
  • Neurological and psychiatric conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease and depression
  • Epilepsy [7]
  • Infants 3 months of age and younger [1]
  • Acne, rosacea or psoriasis
  • Eating disorder [5]
  • Alcoholism [8]
  • Adults between 30 and 60 years of age


[1] Victoire A, Magin P, Coughlan J, et al. Interventions for infantile seborrhoeic dermatitis (including cradle cap). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2019;2019(3):CD011380.

[2] Misery L, Touboul S, Vincot C, et al. Stress and seborrheic dermatitis. Annales de Dermatologie et de Vénéréologie. 2007;134(11):833-7.

[3] Araya M, Kulthanan K, Jiamton S. Clinical characteristics and quality of life of seborrheic dermatitis patients in a tropical country. Indian Journal of Dermatology. 2015;60(5):519.

[4] Borda LJ, Wikramanayake TC. Seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff: A comprehensive review. Journal of Clinical and Investigative Dermatology. 2015;3(2):10.13188/2373-1044.1000019.

[5] Sanders MGH, Pardo LM, Ginger RS, et al. Association between diet and seborrheic dermatitis: A cross-sectional study. Journal of Investigative Dermatology. 2019;139(1):108-14.

[6] Parry S. Seborrhoeic dermatitis is not caused by an altered immune response to Malassezia yeast. British Journal of Dermatology. 1998;139(2):254-63.

[7] Prithvi A, Sharawat IK, Saini AG, Singh P. Epilepsy and neurodegeneration: Clues in the hair and blood vessels! The Journal of Pediatrics. 2019;206:293.

[8] Bruno MCTC, Vilela MAC, Mendes de Oliveira CAB. Study on dermatoses and their prevalence in groups of confirmed alcoholic individuals in comparison to a non-alcoholic group of individuals. Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia. 2013;88(3):368–75.

Merlin Joy
Merlin Joy
Holding a doctorate degree, Dr. Merlin Joy AKA Sinatra developed passion for home remedies from her mother, grand father and grandmother. Sinatra loves to read books and hiking. You can contact her through [email protected]


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