What is Seborrhoeic Dermatitis?
Seborrhoeic Dermatitis is a very common skin complaint characterised by the formation of greasy whitish-yellow scales that come away in profusion when the scalp is combed or brushed. These may settle on the clothing giving a mini confetti like appearance. The complaint varies from mild to very severe. It’s generally worse in winter weather, particularly if hats are worn. Dandruff commonly causes itchiness of the scalp.
Seborrhoeic Dermatitis Causes
The underlying cause of dandruff is a condition called seborrhoeic dermatitis, but the reason for it is unknown. Certain areas of the skin have an abundance of sebaceous glands, tiny factories that produce sebum, the waterproofing material covering the skin. The glands gain access to the outside by microscopic canals. If excessive amounts of sebum are produced, above-average layers are laid down on the skin. When this dries out, it tends to flake away in the form of dandruff.
The scalp, eyebrows and mid-portion of the face, nasal folds, the area behind the ears, the breastbone region, the area between the shoulder blades, the armpits, and the parts between the legs (called the ano-genital region) arc most commonly affected.
More advanced cases of the disorder show a reddening of the skin, an excess-ive oiliness. It appears more common in overweight people and those with diabetes. In the overweight, it is common for the area between the fatty folds to be affected, and these crack and become infected with other germs.
Seborrhoeic Dermatitis Treatment
Nothing is curative, but careful regular attention will produce excellent results in most cases.
Regularly cleanse all affected parts. Shampoo the scalp and affected parts with any of the many commercial preparations available for dandruff: Many lines are excellent. Selenium sulphide suspension shampoo and zinc pyrithione 2 per cent preparations are also very effective. Instructions usually accompany the commercial package.
Simple general measures are often helpful. These include eating a sensible balanced diet, avoiding excess sweets and carbohydrates or spicy food, hot drinks and alcoholic beverages. Get adequate rest at night (every night). Follow sensible working hours and avoid foolish excesses. Adequate recreation helps, and the basics of simple hygiene are important. Infections, emotional stresses and upsets, constipation, and dietetic indiscretions should be attended to. Regular scalp massage may help.
If these simple measures do not assist, seek professional help from the family physician. Other treatment could include:
Creams containing corticosteroids (equal to 0.5 to 1.0 per cent hydrocortisone). These often reduce the inflammation and excessive discharges.
Creams containing sulphur (3-5 per cent) and salicylic acid (2-3 per cent) are popular and often satisfactory. They are used as a cream the night before shampooing.
If sores develop, indicating infection from other germs, these must be treated independently.
In overweight people where the condition arises between folds of fat rubbing together, the physician may check for diabetes (a simple blood test will show if this is present). Castellani’s paint (a bright magenta-coloured preparation applied will often cure the irritating,: cracks and fissures that develop in these areas. Pre-cleansing the area with soap and water is essential (but all traces soap must be removed afterwards).