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Seborrhoeic dermatitis (American spelling is ‘seborrheic’) is a common, chronic or relapsing form of eczema/dermatitis that mainly affects the scalp and face. There are infantile and adult forms of seborrhoeic dermatitis. It is sometimes associated with psoriasis (sebopsoriasis). Seborrhoeic dermatitis is also known as seborrhoeic eczema.
Dandruff (also called ‘pityriasis capitis’) is an uninflamed form of seborrhoeic dermatitis. Dandruff presents as bran-like scaly patches scattered within hair-bearing areas of the scalp.
What causes seborrhoeic dermatitis? The cause of seborrhoeic dermatitis is not completely understood. It is associated with proliferation of various species of the skin commensal Malassezia in its yeast form. Its metabolites cause an inflammatory reaction. Differences in skin barrier function may account for individual presentations.
Infantile seborrhoeic dermatitis affects babies under the age of 3 months and usually resolves by 6–12 months of age.
Adult seborrhoeic dermatitis tends to begin in late adolescence. Prevalence is greatest in young adults and in the elderly. It is more common in males than in females. The following factors are sometimes associated with severe adult seborrhoeic dermatitis:
Seborrheic dermatitis is thought to be due to an inflammatory reaction against Pityrosporum ovale (called Malassezia furfur when in the infectious hyphal form),a yeast that is part of normal skin flora. The incidence of seborrheic dermatitis is associated with increased sebaceous gland activity and is found most commonly in infants and in post-pubertal patients.