Seborrhea

What is seborrhea? 

Seborrhea (also known as seborrheic dermatitis) is a type of eczema – a skin condition, occurring on parts of the body prone to sweat: the scalp, face, chest, and in the folds of the body (armpits, groin, under the breasts, and in the navel). 

Eczema is an inflammatory condition, yet it is not caused by viral, bacterial, or fungal infection. When diagnosed with eczema, many people fear a bacterial or fungal infection, yet it is not contagious. It is appears as red, scaly, itchy skin.

 

Is seborrhea the cause of scalp dandruff? 

Yes! Scalp dandruff is a mild form of seborrhea. Therefore, any treatment for seborrhea can be used for treating dandruff. 

 

Do babies also suffer from seborrhea? 

Seborrhea in babies is very prevalent, however the condition generally dissipates at around age 8-12 months. 

 

What are the causes of seborrhea? 

Seborrhea could be a reaction to the fungus, malassezia furfur or pityrosporum ovale.  However, seborrhea is not a fungal disease. Its symptoms come and go. They are aggravated during certain seasons (autumn and winter specifically), when temperatures drop or at times of hormonal changes and stress. Neurological conditions, such as Parkinson's, are also liable to increase the risk of seborrhea. In babies, seborrhea can be due to the transfer of hormones from the mother just before birth. 

 

How prevalent is seborrhea

Seborrhea affects 2% - 3% of the world population, and occurs in all races. It's mildest form – scalp dandruff – is even more widespread, and is found in 15% - 20% of the population. 

The condition is generally more severe among men than women. For the most part, it first appears at puberty, and becomes more prevalent towards age 40. The incidence of seborrhea in seniors is lower and less severe than among younger people. 

 

What are the symptoms of seborrhea? 

Seborrhea appears on the skin in the vicinity of the glands, including the scalp and face. The condition appears as an eczema – mildly red and scaly. There may be mild itching. Few people complain of intense itching, as in atopic dermatitis – the standard eczema we all know, where immense itching occurs, which often leads to increased redness, heat, and broken skin.

 Seborrhea manifests itself in the eye, eyelid, and eyebrow area, as well as the sides of the nose, the moustache area between the nose and lips, and chest. Likewise, it can appear on the upper back, in the armpits, and the groin area. In men it is more likely to occur in areas with more hair. 

 

How is seborrhea diagnosed? 

For the most part, there is no need for formal testing to obtain a diagnosis for seborrhea. The diagnosis is based on the doctor's checkup as to the character of the symptoms. It is extremely rare that a skin biopsy will be required to confirm the presence of seborrhea, or in order to rule out similar, but rarer conditions. 

 

Is seborrhea a dangerous condition? 

Seborrhea on its own is not a dangerous condition, however its symptoms – redness and scales, specifically on the scalp (dandruff), are similar to other riskier skin conditions. There is always the concern that an inadequate diagnosis of a serious condition will delay the correct treatment. Therefore it is always recommended, that on appearance of red, scaly, itchy skin, to avoid self-diagnosis, and to be examined by a dermatologist. A professional examination will ensure proper diagnosis, negating or confirming the presence of a different skin condition. 

There is a higher incidence of seborrhea in AIDS patients. Therefore, should a seborrhea-like rash appear on the skin of people with a high risk of HIV infection, it is advisable to do a blood test for HIV. 

Seborrhea in adults is a chronic condition, and sometimes it requires ongoing treatment. 

Seborrhea is a long-term condition, often lasting many years. Over the course of time, there are periods of remission and respite, and stretches of flare-ups. During times that it is active, treatment should be taken. There is no need to treat the condition during a lull in activity.

Currently, there is no treatment that cures the disease completely.