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    Seborrhoeic dermatitis (scalp)

    Seborrhoeic dermatitis of the scalp is an inflammation of the scalp which is very common and can affect up to 3 percent of the population.


    What is Seborrhoeic dermatitis (scalp)

    Seborrhoeic dermatitis is a condition characterized by the inflammation of the scalp.

    It is a common disease that causes a rash that is reddish in colour and often accompanied by a yellowish crust. The rash can often be swollen and greasy to the touch, a result of high levels of Malassezia present in the skin. A common condition, Seborrhoeic dermatitis affects up to 3 per cent of the population.

    What causes Seborrhoeic dermatitis (scalp)

    While the exact cause is still unknown, most researchers concur that it is a complex disease brought about by a number of different factors.

    One of the most common beliefs is that the cause lies with Malassezia, a naturally occurring yeast that grows on the skin, which is completely harmless. However, an overproduction of this can result in the condition developing, as can an overactive immune system.

    Research has shown that poor personal hygiene is not to blame for the condition, and that it does not occur as the result of an allergy.

    Seborrhoeic dermatitis of the scalp can sometimes be triggered by stress, late nights and alcohol.

    What are the symptoms of Seborrhoeic dermatitis (scalp)

    Sometimes called Seborrhoeic eczema, Seborrhoeic dermatitis can occur on the face, around the hairline, behind the ears, and on the eyebrows and nose.

    The affected areas will be red, sore and sensitive to the touch, and often the skin will be flaky and crusty as well. The condition can make the area around the rash pink and inflamed with cracks in the skin, and when appearing on darker skin, the affected areas could appear lighter or darker.

    How do you treat Seborrhoeic dermatitis (scalp)

    Seborrhoeic dermatitis of the scalp is a condition that we control rather than cure but good control can often be gained with the use of medicated shampoos. First-line treatment is a medicated shampoo with an anti-yeast antifungal agent, ketoconazole. This needs to be used on a repeated basis and applied to the scalp and left in for 3 to 5 minutes.

    The medicated shampoo does need to be used on an ongoing basis at a frequency that controls the eruption. Other forms of medicated shampoos may include tar shampoos or shampoos that have keratolytic agents. Occasionally Seborrhoeic dermatitis of the scalp is very severe, scalp lotions which may include steroids or a steroid shampoo may need to be used.

    How does a Dermatologist diagnose Seborrhoeic dermatitis?

    A dermatologist will observe the clinical appearance of the skin to make a formal diagnosis. As Malassezia is already present in the skin, a Dermatologist will not commony request a biopsy or skin scraping, unless there are signs that a similar condition may be present (such as scalp ringworm, known as tinea capitis).

    Who is at risk of Seborrhoeic dermatitis?

    Seborrheic dermatitis affects men and women of any sex, age or race, but certain demographics are at higher risk.


    Babies under the age of three months old and adults aged between 30 and 60 are more likely to develop the condition, and it occurs more commonly in males than females. If you have very oily skin, an immunosuppressive disease (such as HIV) or certain neurological ailments including Parkinson’s disease, you could be at higher risk.

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