Inflamed skin, oily scales on the head or face: seborrheic eczema is uncomfortable and can lead to severe itching. These therapies help.
Seborrheic eczema: what is it?
Seborrheic dermatitis, also known as seborrheic dermatitis or colloquially as gneiss, is a chronic inflammation of the skin. Skin areas with many sebaceous glands, such as the scalp, hairline and face, are usually affected. Men suffer from the condition more often because their skin is oily. The rash, which is usually associated with large, greasy scales and reddened, inflamed areas, is not contagious and can be treated. The intensity of the symptoms fluctuates.
A special form of eczema – also called head gneiss – can affect infants. With them, the scaly rash usually develops in the first months of life and usually disappears on its own within a year. Unlike the highly itchy and inflammatory cradle cap, gneiss usually does not cause any discomfort to the babies affected.
Signs of seborrheic eczema
The rash is often accompanied by increased dandruff. The scales are large, white to yellowish and greasy. Some sufferers have a very itchy scalp. Smaller, supposedly harmless dandruff can also indicate seborrheic eczema. Affected people who first experienced it in adolescence or adulthood often suffer from the rash throughout their lives.
In infants, gneiss manifests itself primarily through yellowish-greasy scales that adhere firmly to the scalp. However, other areas of the body can also be affected in babies, such as the face, the diaper area or skin folds.
Overview of symptoms
These symptoms can occur with gneiss:
- Whitish-yellowish, mostly greasy scales on the scalp, hairline, eyebrows or in the beard area,
- Inflamed and reddened skin
- Sometimes severe itching, especially on the scalp
- Symptoms often increase in winter or when stressed
Diagnosis and differentiation from other skin diseases
With a thorough skin examination and further tests, the dermatologist can determine whether it is actually seborrheic eczema or another skin disease such as neurodermatitis or psoriasis. Scaly rashes can also develop with allergies. In case of doubt, an allergy test brings clarity
Causes of gneiss
The cause of this skin disease is the yeast Malassezia furfur. It is found in small quantities on every person’s skin – including the scalp, where it feeds on fats from the sebaceous glands. If the scalp produces too much sebum, for example in the case of a metabolic disorder, the fungus can multiply significantly. The skin then increasingly rejects dead cells that clump together. The result: large dandruff and sometimes very itchy scalp.
For many sufferers, the rash worsens due to stress. Experts also suspect that other skin germs, increased sebum formation (seborrhea) and a weakened immune system also favor the development. Patients with HIV and Parkinson’s disease are particularly often affected by eczema.
Treatment of eczema
The eczema is visually disturbing, but not a serious illness. It often helps to rub the affected skin areas with sulfur cream, a cortisone ointment. Preparations with cortisone are used especially when the skin is severely inflamed. In addition, antifungals, i.e. antifungal agents, are often applied to the skin.
If dandruff on the scalp or beard is the only symptom of seborrheic eczema, it is usually sufficient to use a medical shampoo several times a week. Corresponding products contain active ingredients such as selenium disulfide, which curb the multiplication of yeasts. As with psoriasis, exposure to UV light can also help.
Self help and prevention
Regular skin care with a mild care lotion can alleviate the symptoms, but it cannot cure eczema. People in whom the skin disease is particularly pronounced and keeps returning should regularly treat their scalp with a suitable shampoo as a precaution. This can prevent the rash from spreading to the face. An improvement or even healing through a certain type of diet has not been sufficiently proven.