Seborrheic Eczema Risks, Pictures & Treatment

Understanding Seborrheic Eczema

Seborrheic on the back of head
Seborrheic on the back of head

 Seborrheic eczema is one of the more common forms of eczema, which starts on the scalp area and is characterized as greasy, wax-like patches. In severe cases, the condition extends and affects the face, neck and other areas neighbouring areas of the head. As with most other types of eczema, Seborrheic eczema tends to worsen during winter and dry weather conditions. Seborrheic eczema is also known as Seborrhoea and Seborrheic dermatitis, and when it occurs in children aged between zero to siz months, it is called “Cradle Cap”.

Seborrheic eczema begins at any period from infancy and even affects people in their late seventies. Although all race groups are at equal risk of developing the disease, it is more prevalent in men and the severity is more heightened in males too. There are a number of factors, which cause Seborrheic eczema. These include genetic factors, yeasts that live on human skin, climate changes, stress and overall general health.

Seborrheic eczema presents as scaly skin with flakes that range in color from off-white to yellowish tinged with brown. The skin has an oily and/or waxy appearance and may itch constantly. Areas with oil-producing or sebaceous glands like the scalp area, around the hairline as well as the upper lip, in and around the ears, beneath the eyebrows, eyelids, around the nose, lines around the mouth, armpits, groin, buttocks, navel, undersides of the breasts and the upper back. Reddish, swollen patches often similar to Atopic eczema may occur. Excessive itching and inflammation are common when infection has set in and should this occur, the skin will become extremely irritated and scratchy. In severe cases, the patches  can grow to become more widespread.

Risk Factors of Seborrheic Eczema

An individual’s susceptibility to developing Seborrheic eczema increases when the following factors are present:

  • Stress and fatigue
  • Cold, dry climate
  • Oily skin or hair
  • A family history of eczema
  • Obesity
  • People who are prone to psoriasis, acne, rosacea or blepharitis
  • The use of lotions or topical containing alcohol
  • Taking of medications such as lithium, psoralen, interferon-a increases the risk as well
  • Injury to the skin through scratching or abrasions
  • For those with afflicted with certain medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, HIV and in people recovering from strokes or heart attacks are known to be more susceptible.

Duration of Seborrheic Eczema

Among adults, Seborrheic eczema is usually a chronic disease, which can flare up periodically. Among children and infants, this skin disorder typically clears up over a period but in some cases may recur upon reaching puberty.

Seborrheic Eczema Treatment

Seborrheic Eczema on the front of the head
Seborrheic Eczema on the front of the head

There is no cure for Seborrheic eczema but majority of these cases react well and quickly to the correct treatment. The initial goal of the treatment is to effectively release and remove the crusts and scales  as well as prevent skin infections and reduce inflammation and itching.

Treatment of Seborrheic eczema is based on the area of the body and the age of the patient. Cradle Cap, a condition that afflicts infants, is normally controlled through frequent shampooing with a mild shampoo specifically formulated for babies and then brushing gently to dislodge and remove the scales. A gentle corticosteroid cream or an anti-fungal treatment may also be prescribed. For those infants who have developed Seborrheic eczema in areas other than the scalp, topical medications such as anti-fungal creams and corticosteroids are prescribed.

Adults or adolescents who develop Seborrheic eczema of the scalp often find shampooing with a dermatological product provides relief. This is especially the case for African-Americans. Caucasian patients affected with Seborrheic eczema find that more regular shampooing and allowing the lather to soak and penetrate the scalp for extended periods helps clear the eczema. Specially formulated shampoos for flakes often prove effective and alternating with different types of medicated shampoos get quicker results. A dermatologist may also prescribe topical cortisteroids creams or an anti fungal drug.  

Shampoos containing tar are also found to be highly effective in reducing the build up of skin cells but they also have the tendency to discolor blond as well as gray hair. In most cases, dermatologists prescribe medicated shampoos for dandruff and explain how patients will be able to use said formula to cure other known affected areas.

In very severe cases, oral anti fungal medication together with topical cortisteroids or anti fungal medications are prescribed for Seborrheic eczema. Phototherapy has also been used in the treatment of severe cases.

Guidelines and Expert Advice

As in the case of the other eczema types, life style modifications is key in controlling the conditions whether the Seborrheic eczema is mild, moderate or severe. Following certain guidelines as recommended by dermatologists may decrease the need for anti-inflammatory medicines whilst helping to reduce the severity and frequency of flare-ups.

  • Locking in moisture is the best way to keep dry and itchy skin calm and preventing further cracking and dryness. The best way to do this is to apply moisturize after a bath or shower.
  • Try to keep temperatures constant as this can cause sweating and overheating which in turn can trigger the scratch/itch cycle. Sudden drops in humidity can dry the skin too.
  • To lessen the desire to scratch and to reduce inflammation, as this will only worsen the condition or cause punctures in the skin, which then allows infection to set in, gently apply a cold compress to the itchy areas.
  • Ensure that new clothes are washed or thoroughly rinsed before wearing, as certain chemicals may cause a flare-up. Use neutral pH, fragrance-free laundry detergents to clean clothes and remove tags as these rub on the skin causing irritation. Wearing loose-fitting cotton clothes in cotton and cotton-blends are best as synthetic fabrics can cause irritation to the skin and triggering a flare-up.

With the fast-paced lives we lead, it is imperative to keep stress to a minimum although this in itself can induce stress! Yoga and exercise are good ways to help effectively reduce stress.

Ensure that the regimen prescribed for Seborrheic eczema, by your dermatologist, is followed to the letter as this goes a long way to keeping flare-ups at bay.



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