What Is Seborrheic Eczema?
Seborrheic eczema, also known as seborrheic dermatitis, is a very common skin condition that causes redness, scaly patches, and dandruff. It most often affects the scalp, but it can also develop in oily areas of the body, such as the face, upper chest, and back. When infants develop this condition, it’s known as crib cap. It typically develops within the first few weeks of life and gradually disappears over several weeks or months.
The exact cause of seborrheic eczema isn’t known. However, doctors believe there are two main factors that can contribute to the development of the condition. The first factor is an overproduction of oil. An excess amount of oil in the skin might act as an irritant, causing the skin to become red and greasy. The second contributing factor is Malassezia, which is a type of fungus that’s naturally found in the skin’s oils. It can sometimes grow abnormally, causing the skin to secrete more oil than usual. The increased production of oil can lead to seborrheic eczema.
The condition might also develop in infants due to hormonal changes that occur in the mother during pregnancy. The fluctuating hormone levels are believed to stimulate the infant's oil glands, leading to an overproduction of oil that may irritate the skin.
Seborrheic eczema is a long-term skin condition that requires ongoing treatment. However, developing a good skin care routine and learning to recognize and eliminate triggers can help you manage the condition effectively.
What Are the Symptoms of Seborrheic Eczema?
The symptoms of seborrheic eczema are often aggravated by various factors, including stress, change of seasons, and heavy alcohol use. The types of symptoms that develop can vary from person-to-person. It’s also possible for symptoms to occur in different parts of the body.
Seborrheic eczema tends to develop in oily areas of the body. It most often affects the scalp, but it can also occur in the following areas:
in and around the ears
on the eyebrows
on the nose
on the back
on the upper portion of the chest
Seborrheic eczema has a distinct appearance and set of symptoms:
Skin develops scaly patches that flake off. The patches may be white or yellowish in color. This problem is commonly known as dandruff. It can occur in the scalp, hair, eyebrows, or beard.
Skin in the affected area tends to be greasy and oily.
Skin in the affected area may be red.
Skin in the affected area may be itchy.
Hair loss may occur in the affected area.
Who Is at Risk for Seborrheic Eczema?
Doctors aren’t exactly sure why some people develop seborrheic eczema while others don’t. However, it does appear that your risk of developing the condition increases if a close family member has it.
Other factors thought to increase risk include:
poor skin care
environmental factors, such as pollution
the presence of other skin issues, such as acne
the use of certain skin care products, particularly those containing alcohol
certain medical conditions, such as a stroke, HIV, or Parkinson’s disease
How Is Seborrheic Eczema Diagnosed?
The symptoms of seborrheic eczema are similar to those of other skin conditions, including rosacea and psoriasis. To make an accurate diagnosis, your doctor will perform a physical examination and carefully inspect the affected areas. They’ll also ask you about your symptoms, including when they started and how often you experience them.
Your doctor may also want to perform a biopsy before making a diagnosis. During this procedure, your doctor will scrape off skin cells from the affected area. These samples will then be sent to a laboratory for analysis. The results will help to rule out other conditions that may be causing your symptoms.