What is seborrhoeic eczema?

Seborrhoeic eczema typically causes a rash in the scalp, eyebrows, eyelids, nose, forehead, face, and trunk. It can also affect the belly button and genitalia. These parts of the skin are rich in sebaceous glands, a type of sweat gland on the skin. However, it usually appears as simple dandruff.

The exact cause of seborrhoeic eczema is unknown, but a yeast fungus known as Malassezia furfur is thought to play a part by infecting the skin. Everyone who has seborrhoeic eczema has M. furfur, however, not everyone with M. furfur will develop seborrhoeic eczema. There may also be genetic, environmental, hormonal, and immunological factors in the development of seborrhoeic eczema. When seborrhoeic eczema occurs in young babies, it usually disappears by 6 – 12 months of age, and may be caused by hormonal factors from the mother.

Seborrhoeic eczema typically comes on after puberty. It only affects 3 % of the general population, but can affect 85 % of people with AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). People with diseases of the nervous system, such as Parkinson's disease also appear to be more susceptible to seborrhoeic eczema. Seborrhoeic eczema is more common in men that women, because male hormones influence sebaceous glands.

Treatment with UVA and UVB light can limit the growth of M. furfur and people who have undergone phototherapy report improvements in their condition. Anti-yeast and anti-fungal drugs are also effective. Some shampoos may also contain ingredients that are effective, these ingredients include selenium sulphide, coal tar extract, corticosteroids, or pyrithione zinc. These shampoos can be used to treat seborrhoeic eczema in the scalp and possibly other parts of the body.

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