Dermatitis of the Scalp


Seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp and scalp psoriasis are difficult to differentiate. Sebhorrheic dermatitis of the scalp is usually confined to the scalp, whereas scalp dermatitis may appear on several locations of the body. Characterized by hard, scaly lumps, dermatitis of the scalp is a common skin disorder affecting certain age groups.


Signs and symptoms of sebhorrheic dermatitis of the scalp include white or yellow scaly lumps or flakes that may attach themselves to the hair shaft. The scalp may become red and itchy with yellow or white scales. Small reddish brown bumps may be present and there may be soreness and bleeding if the sufferer picks off the bumps. A mild case of sebhorrheic dermatitis is commonly known as dandruff.


Sebhorrheic dermatitis prevalent in babies younger than three months old is known as cradle cap. More common in men than women, sebhorrheic dermatitis affects people between 30 and 60 years old. Cradle cap in babies may be removed by applying baby oil regularly to painlessly lift the scales. Regular gentle scrubbing of a baby's scalp with baby shampoo at bath time may keep the condition at bay.


Salicylic acid is one method of treatment found in brand name shampoos such as Scalpicin and X-Seb. Selsun Blue and Exsel contain the prescription medication selenium sulfide. Head & Shoulders and DHS Zinc contain zinc pyrithione as the active ingredient in their shampoos; these shampoos should be used twice per week to effectively combat sebhorrheic dermatitis. Shampoos containing coal tar, such as Polytar and Neutrogena T-Gel, may be used three times weekly.


The cause of sebhorrheic dermatitis is not known, although the neurological disorders epilepsy and Parkinson's disease have been associated with the skin condition. Hormonal attributes may be linked, however the reason for this is unknown. Another theory is the presence of a fungus, malassezia, and although small spores are found on the human scalp, it is not certain why they multiply and may be related to the condition.


Those with certain skin types, particularly greasy skin, are afflicted with sebhorrheic dermatitis more often than people with combination skin or dry skin types. Treatment of this condition may require a doctor's prescription. The appearance of the scales are unsightly and can embarrass sufferers, especially those with dark hair.

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