When it comes to skin conditions, the consensus is to deal with them immediately so as to limit their spread. Your scalp is skin as well, and while the same rules applied to it as do to your skin, more often than not, people ignore scalp issues entirely. This is especially harmful in cases that are prone to getting worse if left untreated. Seborrheic dermatitis, or in simpler terms dandruff, is one such condition. But how can dandruff cause too many issues for you? That is because seborrheic dermatitis is a condition where dandruff becomes a lot severe for some people. This is accompanied by a lot of inflammation, itching and scaly skin lesions appearing on the scalp. The condition also leads to oozing liquid or blood, developing a yellowish crust on the scalp. With flakiness so severe, it is necessary to get the correct diagnosis and treat it properly. We asked our in-house expert, Dr. Monisha Aravind, about the right seborrheic dermatitis treatment and here’s everything you should know.
- What triggers seborrheic dermatitis?
- What are the features of seborrheic dermatitis?
- How does seborrheic dermatitis affect your hair health?
- What happens if seborrheic dermatitis is left untreated?
- What are the treatment options available for seborrheic dermatitis?
- How to treat seborrheic dermatitis?
- FAQs about seborrheic dermatitis
What triggers seborrheic dermatitis?
As seen above, the triggers for seborrheic dermatitis come in a variety of shapes and forms. Certain medications have also been associated with developing the condition, which is why you should always get a confirmation from an expert. And while you make your own appointment, here is some preliminary information doled out by Dr. Monisha.
What are the features of seborrheic dermatitis?
Seborrheic dermatitis doesn’t just affect the scalp - it can occur in any area where there are a lot of oil glands. So wherever there is a high concentration of seborrhea - like the corners of the nose, around the mouth, on the face, around the neck and back - there can be some lesion eruptions. There are some scalp conditions that look similar to seborrheic dermatitis, namely, scalp psoriasis, fungal infections like tinea and ringworm. Immunocompromised people who are in treatment for major health conditions like cancer or depression can show signs of the condition as well.
How does seborrheic dermatitis affect your hair health?
Newborns and people between the ages of 30 and 60 are more prone to developing seborrheic dermatitis. And while the condition does not directly cause hair loss, there is certainly damage done to the cuticles due to excessive scratching and picking. Not to mention the flakes that keep falling on your face, body and clothes, bringing with it the embarrassment factor. The excessive sebum production associated with the condition gives fuel to malassezia, a fungus can make your scalp red and inflamed.
What happens if seborrheic dermatitis is left untreated?
If and when left untreated, seborrheic dermatitis can affect the entire body. Since it is a form of eczema, your body can suffer from increased inflammation and bacterial, fungal and viral infections. This can lead to fluid discharge, like blood, from the lesions. Without any external intervention, the scales on the affected areas can become thicker and more visible to the naked eye. The lesions can also become tender to the touch and bleed every time it comes in contact or is exposed to friction. The secondary bacterial infection is also a major cause of concern when you let seborrheic dermatitis go untreated for a long time.
What are the treatment options available for seborrheic dermatitis?
The best course of action is prescription topical solutions. Good anti-dandruff shampoos, that contain zinc pyrithione, ketoconazole selenium sulphide, have to be left on the scalp for at least 10-20 minutes. It has to be used on an alternate day basis and you have to be regular with that. More severe cases will have a steroid combination with salicylic to help reduce the inflammation and thin down the scales and help control seborrheic dermatitis. Scalp creams, lotions and anti-fungal gels with potent ingredients can also be recommended by your dermatologist for safe use. Steroids are also not supposed to be used for a prolonged period of time, with 2 weeks to a month being a safe timeline.
If topical treatment options are proving less than effective, there are oral medications available as well. Very severe and inflamed cases may need the help of antibiotics and antifungals to help curb and treat the issue. Having said that, oral medication is often the final course of treatment used by a professional as they can have some side effects.
Dr. Aravind stressed, “Do not give in to the temptation of using over-the-counter medication for the condition. You cannot just go to any pharmacy and demand medication for the same. This practice often leads to abuse of steroids and eventually making it difficult for professionals to help out as your scalp gets desensitised to the medications.”
How to treat seborrheic dermatitis?
Yes, there are alternative ways that help deal with the condition, but it is professionals who will eventually be able to treat it properly. And while these tips can come in handy in dealing with the issue, severe cases need to be looked at by a licensed dermatologist. Some of the at-home tips and remedies you can try are:
- Try tea-tree oil for its antibacterial properties and neem oil or aloe vera to help soothe the inflammation. Do not apply thick oils all over your scalp, and just apply at the ends.
- Keep your scalp very clean and wash it at least twice a week to maintain hygiene. Keep any head covers, like scarfs or helmets, clean and sanitised in order to avoid infecting your scalp more. Leaving them in the sun for a couple of hours can get the job done!
- Sweating is a major culprit that contributes to making your seborrheic dermatitis worse. So if you are someone who works out a lot, wash your scalp regularly, switching with plain water on alternate days to avoid over-shampooing your hair.
- Avoid styling products, like hair sprays and gels, as much as possible. These products can contain irritating agents like alcohol and further make your scalp itchier.
- Seborrheic dermatitis can always make a comeback, even after being treated by a professional. So, keep a close watch on the symptoms of the condition to avoid escalating it a second or a third time.
FAQs about seborrheic dermatitis
Q. What role does diet play in triggering seborrheic dermatitis?
A. While there are no direct links between certain foods and seborrheic dermatitis, some have been known to affect it for their processed nature and high glycemic nature. Processed cheese and tofu, white bread, sugary foods like cake and cookies and salty ones like ketchup and potato chips can put your oil glands into overdrive and cause inflammation.
Q. Is there any vitamin deficiency associated with seborrheic dermatitis?
A. Vitamins are essential for maintaining ideal scalp and hair health. Some of the vitamin deficiencies that have been associated with scalp health are vitamin B6, biotin and zinc. Make sure you are consuming a well-balanced diet of proteins and greens. Include vitamin supplements in your daily out to fill any gaps in the kind of food you consume.
Q. Can stress trigger seborrheic dermatitis in adults?
A. Stress has been directly linked with over-stimulation of oil glands in your body, which can lead to seborrheic dermatitis flare-ups as well. Fortunately, in addition to stress management, medication can also help calm down seborrhea and inhibit these flare-ups effectively.
Q. Does seborrheic dermatitis last forever?
A. Unfortunately, seborrheic dermatitis is a lifelong condition that can clear up and pop back up again. The best approach to this condition is to have a good lifestyle and hygiene routine in place and go in for expert consultation as soon as you see the symptoms show up again.