Dandruff is a typical skin condition that causes the formation of dry white or gray flakes of dead skin on the hair or scalp. It is important to note that the flakes are often noticeable if they drop from the scalp on to the shoulders. In most cases, the scalp can also feel itchy and dry.
The condition is not contagious and does not pose as a threat to health, but it can be embarrassing and unpleasant. Dandruff can range from mild to severe.
Causes of dandruff
The body continuously sheds dead skin cells as new cells are created. In most circumstances, this is a gradual process that is left unnoticed. Nevertheless, this process can speed up, thus resulting to the production of large amounts of dead skin cells that causes dandruff.
It is not always clear why this occurs, but the possible causes include seborrheic dermatitis which is a prevalent skin condition that leads to oily skin. Even though not directly responsible, there are certain factors that can aggravate dandruff such as emotional stress, overusing hair products and washing hair too much or too little.
Close look on seborrheic dermatitis
In case dandruff is linked with seborrheic dermatitis, other symptoms might be present such as itchiness and scaling of the skin. The areas that are typically affected include the face, scalp, front of the chest and between the shoulder blades, in and around the ears and skin folds such as the groin, armpits and inner thighs.
The scaling can range from a mild pinkish rash to generalized thickened crusts on the skin. In some circumstances, the scales can end up infected that can cause soreness, redness and drainage of fluid and pus. In severe cases of patching, it can result to a certain degree of hair loss. Nevertheless, if there is no scarring, the hair must regrow.
Treatment for dandruff
The main treatment for the condition is an anti-dandruff shampoo. There are various types available over-the-counter in drug stores and supermarkets. These work in various ways depending on the type used. In case one type is not effective, another type can be used.
In case the treatment could not clear up the flaky scalp after a few weeks or the scalp is quite itchy, a doctor must be consulted. A stronger prescription shampoo or a short course of a steroid lotion might be given by the doctor.
Dandruff usually responds well to treatment but it is common for the condition to recur. In some individuals, they are free from symptoms for a while before experiencing a flare-up. In some circumstances, an anti-dandruff shampoo must be used on a regular or semi-regular basis in order to prevent the return of dandruff.
When to consult a doctor
A doctor must be consulted if the symptoms do not seem to improve after using anti-dandruff shampoo for 2 weeks. In such cases, a stronger prescription treatment is needed.
The doctor can carefully assess the scalp to rule out other skin conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis or psoriasis. A skin sample is taken and analyzed in the laboratory.