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Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Alternate Names

  • dandruff
  • cradle cap


Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic, usually intermittent, disorder which produces inflammation and scaling of the skin. It can involve the scalp and face. When this condition occurs in infants, it is sometimes known as cradle cap. In adults, seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp is called dandruff.

What is going on in the body?

The cause of seborrheic dermatitis is not known. The skin of the scalp, and sometimes the face, becomes inflamed and flakes off.


What are the causes and risks of the condition?

The cause of seborrheic dermatitis is unknown. It tends to run in families. Some individuals have an overgrowth of yeast organisms that is linked with this condition. Those with neurologic disorders, immunodeficiency disorders such as HIV, and extended hospital stays can also have severe cases of seborrheic dermatitis.


What can be done to prevent the condition?

There is no known way to prevent seborrheic dermatitis.


How is the condition diagnosed?

A healthcare professional can make the diagnosis of seborrheic dermatitis by examining the skin.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the condition?

Seborrheic dermatitis causes no long-term effects other than itching and discomfort.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

Seborrheic dermatitis is not contagious, and poses no risk to others.


What are the treatments for the condition?

Treatments for seborrheic dermatitis include:
  • shampoos containing special substances such as selenium sulfide, zinc pyrithione, tar, or ketoconazole
  • topical corticosteroid lotions
  • ketoconazole cream
  • sulfur and salicylic acid mixtures

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Medicated shampoos can dry the hair. Sometimes they can irritate the scalp or cause a rash. Long-term use of topical corticosteroids can thin the skin

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the condition?

Long-term treatment is often needed to control episodes of seborrheic dermatitis.


How is the condition monitored?

Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.

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