St. Luke's Hospital
Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
America's 50 Best Hospitals
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia

    Print-Friendly
    Bookmarks

    Seborrheic dermatitis

    Dandruff; Seborrheic eczema; Cradle cap

    Seborrheic dermatitis is a common, inflammatory skin condition that causesflaky,white to yellowish scales to form on oily areas such as the scalp, faceor inside the ear. It can occur with or without reddened skin.

    Cradle cap is the term used when seborrheic dermatitis affects the scalp of infants.

    Causes

    The exact cause of seborrheic dermatitisis unknown. Doctors think it may be due to a combination hormone levels, weakened immune system, lack of certain nutrients, or nervous system problems. Irritation from a yeast called Malassezia may also lead to this condition. Seborrheic dermatitis appears to run in families.

    Risk factors include:

    • Stress or fatigue
    • Weather extremes
    • Oily skin, or skin problems such as acne
    • Infrequent shampoos or skin cleaning
    • Using lotions that contain alcohol
    • Obesity
    • Neurologic conditions, including Parkinson's disease, head injuryor stroke
    • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

    Symptoms

    Seborrheic dermatitis can occur on different body areas. Usually it forms where the skin is oily or greasy. Common areas include the scalp, eyebrows, eyelids, creases of the nose, lips, behind the ears, in the outer ear, and middle of the chest.

    In general, symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis include:

    • Skin lesions
    • Plaques over large area
    • Greasy, oily areas of skin
    • Skin scales -- white and flaking, or yellowish, oily, andsticky dandruff
    • Itching -- may become more itchy if infected
    • Mild redness
    • Hair loss

    Exams and Tests

    Diagnosis is based on appearance and location of the skin lesions. Further tests, such as skin biopsy, are rarely needed.

    Treatment

    Flaking and dryness can be treated with over-the-counter dandruff or medicated shampoos.You can buy these at the drugstore without a prescription. Look for a product that says on the label it treats seborrheic dermatitis. Such products contain ingredients such as salicylic acid, coal tar, zinc, resorcin, ketoconazole, or selenium sulfide. Use the shampoo according to label instructions.

    Shampoos or lotions containing selenium, ketoconazole, or corticosteroids may be prescribed for severe cases. To apply shampoos, part the hair into small sections, apply to a small area at a time, and massage into the skin. If on face or chest, apply medicated lotion twice per day. Recently, creams classified as topical immune modulators are being used.

    For severe cases, your health care provider will likely prescribe a shampoo or lotion containing a stronger dose of selenium sulfide, ketoconazole, or corticosteroid. Acream that contains an immunomodulator may be prescribed. This medicine suppresses the immune system to treat inflammation.

    It is thought that sunlight improves seborrheic dermatitis. In some persons, the condition gets better in the summer, especially after outdoor activities.

    Outlook (Prognosis)

    Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic (life-long) condition thatcomes and goes and can be controlled with treatment. Severity of seborrheic dermatitis can be lessened by controlling risk factors and paying careful attention to skin care.

    Possible Complications

    • Psychological distress, low self esteem, embarrassment
    • Secondary bacterial or fungal infections

    When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Call for an appointment with your health care provider if seborrheic dermatitis symptoms do not respond to self-care or over-the-counter treatments.

    Also call if patches of seborrheic dermatitis drain fluid or pus, form crusts, or become very red or painful.

    Prevention

    The severity of seborrheic dermatitis can be lessened by controlling the risk factors and by paying careful attention to skin care.

    References

    Habif TP. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier Mosby; 2009:chap 8.

    BACK TO TOP

    • Skin layers

      illustration

      • Skin layers

        illustration

      A Closer Look

        Self Care

          Tests for Seborrheic dermatitis

            Review Date: 5/15/2013

            Reviewed By: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

            The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
            adam.com

            A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.


            Back  |  Top
            About Us
            Contact Us
            History
            Mission
            Locations & Directions
            Quality Reports
            Annual Reports
            Honors & Awards
            Community Health Needs
            Assessment

            Newsroom
            Services
            Brain & Spine
            Cancer
            Heart
            Maternity
            Orthopedics
            Pulmonary
            Sleep Medicine
            Urgent Care
            Women's Services
            All Services
            Patients & Visitors
            Locations & Directions
            Find a Physician
            Tour St. Luke's
            Patient & Visitor Information
            Contact Us
            Payment Options
            Financial Assistance
            Send a Card
            Mammogram Appointments
            Health Tools
            My Personal Health
            mystlukes
            Spirit of Women
            Health Information & Tools
            Clinical Trials
            Health Risk Assessments
            Employer Programs -
            Passport to Wellness

            Classes & Events
            Classes & Events
            Spirit of Women
            Donate & Volunteer
            Giving Opportunities
            Volunteer
            Physicians & Employees
            For Physicians
            Remote Access
            Medical Residency Information
            Pharmacy Residency Information
            Physician CPOE Training
            Careers
            Careers
            St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
            Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Patient Notice of Privacy Policies PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile