Basically, seborrheic dermatitis in adults is a kind of dandruff condition. It’s associated with a flaky, greasy, scaly quality in the skin on the scalp. Where doctors may refer to an adult case of seborrheic dermatitis as “dandruff,” a pediatric case is often called “cradle cap.” Many babies get this skin condition. It’s also present in the adult community.
Causes of Seborrheic Dermatitis
The exact causes of seborrheic dermatitis are a mystery. Sometimes, doctors think of this skin condition as having a hereditary influence. Seborrheic dermatitis can go along with other severe medical conditions, including some neurological conditions like epilepsy. Since seborrheic dermatitis is a “topical” condition, it doesn’t always receive the kinds of attention given to more critical health conditions. However, many patients work hard to get this irritating and uncomfortable condition under control, and medical doctors can help provide direction on handling a case of seborrheic dermatitis.
Dandruff and Seborrheic Dermatitis
When talking about seborrheic dermatitis and its symptoms, it’s helpful to point out that though many doctors use the word dandruff to describe the seborrheic dermatitis condition, some distinguish “normal” or temporary kinds of dandruff from the type of chronic dandruff produced by underlying medical conditions. Chronic seborrheic dermatitis results in very large flakes of dead skin cells. Smaller and less extreme dandruff can have many other causes. It may be the result of environmental factors like extreme exposure to sun, or dry skin as a result of seasonal conditions.
Dandruff can also be connected to diet or to other issues. Doctors pay attention to this kind of condition when it manifests in a patient, to see if it may be connected to other health risks. Dermatologists have found that some kinds of dandruff have been linked to illnesses like AIDS, and that a low immune system can also produce a higher risk for dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis conditions.
Treating Seborrheic Dermatitis
When it comes to treating dandruff, doctors often recommend items containing salycilic acid. Some doctors may also recommend natural remedies like tea tree oil for a seborrheic dermatitis or dandruff condition. In extreme cases, steroidal topical treatments may be used, but these are usually a last resort, since steroids contribute to other health risks.
Evaluating Seborrheic Dermatitis
If you see a few stray flakes, especially if they are light and “dusty,” the dandruff condition is probably a temporary, environmental or somewhat controllable condition. When large, scaly flakes consistently appear, you may be dealing with a more extreme chronic dandruff situation. Dermatologists can consult and evaluate specific dandruff conditions to see if they are related to larger health issues, or whether they are easily controllable. Always ask about any risks and benefits of treatment, and provide a good medical history, for the best chance of an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.