Seborrheic Dermatitis

What is Seborrheic Dermatitis?

It is a red, scaly, sometimes itchy rash that most often occurs on the scalp, sides of nose, eyebrows, eyelids, skin behind the ears, and middle of the chest. Other areas, such as the belly button and skin folds under the arms, breasts, groin, and buttocks may also be involved.

The cause of seborrheic dermatitis is unknown, but inflammation and a certain yeast-like fungus may play a part. We all have some of this fungus on our skin, but in seborrheic dermatitis, there may be more of it.

How Long Does this Disease Last?

Seborrheic dermatitis can get better on its own, but it usually improves with treatment. It can wax and wane throughout the years. Once the symptoms have cleared up, we may ask that you use the various prescribed treatments once in a while to keep the symptoms from coming back.

Can it be Prevented or Cured?

We don’t know exactly what causes seborrheic dermatitis, so there is no way to prevent or cure it. However, it can be effectively treated.

Are Laboratory Tests Useful in Diagnosing the Disease?

In rare cases of chronic seborrheic dermatitis that do not respond to treatment, a skin biopsy or other laboratory testing may be done to eliminate the possibility of another disease.

How is it Treated?

Seborrheic dermatitis is treatable but may recur. Nonprescription shampoos containing tar, zinc, pyrithione, selenium sulfide, sulfur, and/or salicylic acid may be recommended. We may also recommend a prescription shampoo. Any shampoo that you use for your seborrheic dermatitis needs to be left on the scalp for at least five minutes. We may also prescribe topical steroids for you to use on an intermittent basis when the seborrheic dermatitis flares.

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