The scalp is one of the most common places for eczema to present itself. Eczema is a dry, skin condition characterized by inflammation and an extreme itching sensation. The most common type of scalp eczema is also known as Seborrheic Dermatitis. One of it’s symptoms includes flakes known as dandruff. It can be difficult to diagnose scalp eczema without speaking to a physician because it is very similar to other dry, skin conditions including: scalp psoriasis, atopic dermatitis associated with allergies/asthma and allergic contact dermatitis, which is caused by an allergic reaction on the skin from contact with an allergenic substance.
Symptoms of scalp eczema include:
- Flaky with dandruff
- Extreme itching
- Blisters on the scalp
- Oozing lesions
- Scalp that is greasy
- Hair Loss in conjunction with other symptoms
- Ear discharge if eczema has spread to the ear canal
- Changes in skin color that occurs after healing
Seborrheic Dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that is reoccurring. While it is more common in adults, some infants develop it. The transient infantile form is known as cradle cap. While there is no one known cause of eczema, this form is likely caused by the overproduction of sebum. Sebum is the natural oil the sebaceous glands in the scalp secrete. When this overproduction occurs, the waxy scales can result in an overgrowth of Mallasezia (a normal skin fungus), that in turn causes a worsening of the dandruff associated with the condition.
Triggers & potential causes of scalp eczema include:
- Excessive perspiration or sweating
- Extremely, dry skin
- Greasy skin or hair
- Other skin conditions including: acne, psoriasis and rosacea
- Being exposed to an allergen or irritant
- Allergies including a family history of allergies such as: asthma, hay fever and atopic dermatitis
- Health Conditions such as HIV and Parkinson’s Disease
The most common treatment for this disorder is shampooing with a medicated dandruff shampoo. The active ingredients are typically: salicylic acid, zinc pyrithione and ketoconazole. These chemicals help reduce the inflammation and remove the flakes and scaly skin. It is best to shampoo with a medicated shampoo two or three times a week. Sprays made with coal tar, corticosteroid and other topical creams can also be used to help reduce irritation and control the dandruff.
Living with scalp eczema can be irritating and embarrassing. Naturally, the excessive desire to itch at the scalp can be bothersome but the dandruff can be the bigger annoyance. Some patient’s have reported mood changes, self esteem issues and some have even go on to develop depression. Talk to your doctor about this.