Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Health Care and Dandruff

You know that flaky white stuff that shows up on your scalp or in your hair, and often on your shirt or blouse shoulder tops? It can be very embarrassing to most people, and extremely inconvenient at times. That dry skin that drifts down from your head can be very light or, in extreme cases, look like an avalanche on a snow covered mountain. Those white patches showing  up on your clothes around your neck and clothing is called dandruff, which is dry, dead skin that has loosened from your scalp and is causing you to have an itchy head and an unsightly appearance.

According to the National Institutes for Health (NIH), Seborrheic Dermatitis is a common, inflammatory skin condition that causes flaky, white to yellowish scales to form on oily areas such as the scalp or inside the ear. It can occur with or without reddened skin. Cradle cap is the term used when seborrheic dermatitis affects the scalp of infants. Seborrheic dermatitis is thought to be due to a combination of an over production of skin oil and irritation from a yeast called malessizia. Seborrheic dermatitis appears to run in families. Stress, fatigue, weather extremes, oily skin, infrequent shampoos or skin cleaning, use of lotions that contain alcohol, skin disorders (such as acne), or obesity may increase the risk.

Neurologic conditions, including Parkinson's disease, head injury, and stroke may be associated with seborrheic dermatitis. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has also been linked to increased cases of seborrheic dermatitis. Seborrheic dermatitis can occur on many different body areas. Usually, it forms where the skin is oily or greasy. Commonly affected areas include the scalp, eyebrows, eyelids, creases of the nose, lips, behind the ears, in the outer ear, and middle of the chest. Seborrheic dermatitis in infants, also called cradle cap, is a harmless, temporary condition. It appears as thick, crusty, yellow or brown scales over the child's scalp. Similar scales may also be found on the eyelids, ear, around the nose, and in the groin. Cradle cap may be seen in newborns and small children up to age 3 .

Cradle cap is not contagious, nor is it caused by poor hygiene. It is not an allergy, and it is not dangerous. Cradle cap may or may not itch. If it itches, excessive scratching of the area may cause additional inflammation, and breaks in skin may cause mild infections or bleeding. In general, symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis include:

•Skin lesions
•Plaques over large area
•Greasy, oily areas of skin
•Skin scales -- white and flaking, or yellowish, oily, and adherent -- "dandruff"
•Itching -- may become more itchy if infected
•Mild redness
•Hair loss

According to HeadandShoulders.com, for the majority of people, dandruff problems begin with the onset of puberty. (If there are flakes visible in a child’s hair before puberty it’s worth consulting your doctor as it may indicate a more serious condition). During puberty, our bodies start producing much more testosterone. This hormone affects more than just hair growth. Testosterone can also have a dramatic effect upon the production of sebum, an entirely natural substance. Sebum is a greasy substance that protects our scalps and makes it difficult for micro-organisms to live there. However, one organism has adapted to live off sebum. It’s entirely natural that it lives on the areas of our bodies where our skin contains more “natural oils”, like the scalp. The microorganism produces oleic acid which it deposits on our scalps. The way our bodies respond to this causes irritation of the top layer of skin and this leads to an increased turnover of skin cells. They also clump together so we see them as flakes of dandruff. So that’s basically what dandruff is: a scalp reaction that leads to a speeding up of your natural cycle of skin replenishment.

The condition can become troublesome when the skin gets infected, according to Home Remedies for You.com. There are two main types of dandruff, namely dry dandruff and oily dandruff. Those with an oily skin tend to suffer from oily dandruff while those with dry skin suffer from dry dandruff. The type of dandruff home remedy that one chooses must therefore be decided according to the type of dandruff. Oily dandruff can be a little tougher to treat as it tends to recur quite easily while dry dandruff can be prevented quite easily. Nevertheless, with a suitable dandruff home remedy and a regular hair care regimen, you can get obtain permanent relief from this condition. While most people see dandruff as a purely cosmetic problem that can be embarrassing at times, dandruff can have several serious repercussions.

Dandruff increases one’s risk of scalp infections, especially dry skin conditions, like psoriasis and it can also cause loss of hair which is generally temporary but which can be permanent. Dandruff can also cause itching on your forehead and face as it settles on your skin. This may explain why some people tend to confuse the itchiness and skin irritation symptoms of lice, or rather head lice with dandruff. A dandruff home remedy needs to be used for a prolonged period to ensure that the condition is successfully treated. Very often, people use home remedies for dandruff for just a week or so and as soon as the dandruff has seemed to have cleared, they stop the treatment.

However, discontinuing treatment before the condition has cleared completely will cause the problem to resurface. A dandruff home remedy is usually made up of natural ingredients and can be used for at least two weeks or so as this will ensure permanent relief.  While information on home treatments and remedies may help you learn how to get rid of dandruff naturally, it’s often not easy to differentiate between dandruff vs dry scalp. You should consult a physician if you have a serious case of dry scalp or dandruff for more professional medical advice. For more home remedies and information about treatment, visit this website: http://www.home-remedies-for-you.com/remedy/Dandruff.html.

According to Medical News Today (MTN), most experts do agree that dandruff is not caused by poor hygiene. Here are some probable causes in most individuals:

1.) Not enough hair brushing - People who do not comb/brush their hair regularly have a slightly higher risk of having dandruff - this is because they are not aiding the shedding of skin that combing/brushing provides.

2.) Yeast - People who are sensitive to yeast have a slightly higher risk of having dandruff, so it is logical to assume that yeast may play a part. Yeast-sensitive people who get dandruff find that it gets better during the warmer months and worse during the winter. UVA light from the sun counteracts the yeast. Some say, though, that during winter the skin is drier because of cold air and overheated rooms (exposure to extreme temperatures), making dandruff more likely. So, it is sometimes not that easy to know whether it is yeast or just dry skin.

3.) Dry skin - people with dry skin tend to get dandruff more often. Winter cold air, combined with overheated rooms is a common cause of itchy, flaking skin. People with dandruff caused by dry skin tend to have small flakes of dandruff; the flakes are not oily.

4.) Seborrheic dermatitis (irritated, oily skin) - People with seborrheic dermatitis are very prone to dandruff. Seborrheic dermatitis affects many areas of the skin, including the backs of the ears, the breastbone, eyebrows, and the sides of the nose, not just the scalp. The patient will have red, greasy skin covered with flaky white or yellow scales.

5.) Not enough shampooing - some people say that if you don't shampoo enough there can be a buildup of oil and dead skin cells, causing dandruff. However, many experts doubt this is true.

6.) Certain skin conditions - People with psoriasis, eczema and some other skin disorders tend to get dandruff much more frequently than other people.

7.) Some illnesses - Adults with Parkinson's disease and some other neurological illnesses are more prone to having dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. Patients recovering from heart attacks and strokes, and some people with weak immune systems may have dandruff more often than other people.

8.) Reaction to hair/skin care products - Some people react to some hair care products with a red, itchy, scaling scalp. Many experts say that shampooing too often may cause dandruff as it can irritate the scalp.

9.) Malassezia - Malassezia is a fungus that lives on everybody's scalp. Generally, it will cause no problems at all. However, it can grow out of control. It feeds on the oils our hair follicles secrete. When this happens the scalp can become irritated and produces extra skin cells. These extra skin cells die and fall off; they mix with the oil from the hair and scalp, and turn into what we see as dandruff.

10.) Diet - Some experts say that people who do not consume enough foods that contain zinc, B vitamins, and some types of fats are more prone to dandruff.

11.) Mental stress - Experts believe there is a link between stress and many skin problems.

12.) HIV - A study found that 10.6% of people with HIV have seborrheic dermatitis.

Two factors should be considered when you treat dandruff, according to MTN: 1. Your age. 2. The severity of your dandruff. Shampoos and products for the scalp are available OTC (over-the-counter, no prescription needed) at most supermarkets, pharmacies and many corner shops. It is important to remember that seborrheic dermatitis can be controlled, but not cured with these products. Before using an antifungal shampoo see if you can remove any scaly or crusty patches on your scalp - do this with care. If you manage to remove them the shampoo will be more effective. If you have dandruff on your beard you can use dandruff shampoo on it. Most anti-dandruff or anti-fungal shampoos contain at least one of the following active ingredients:

1.) Zinc pyrithione - an ingredient which slows down the production of yeast.

2.) Selenium sulphide - this reduces the production of natural oils your scalp glands produce.

3.) Coal tar - this has a natural anti-fungal agent. If your hair is dyed or treated remember that long-term coal tar usage can stain the hair.

4.) Ketoconazole - a very effective anti-fungal. Most people who use this are pleased with the results. Experts say shampoos with this ingredient can be used with young and elderly people.

5.) Salicylic acids - these help your scalp get rid of skin cells. It does not slow down the reproduction of skin cells. Many "scalp scrubs" contain salicylic acids. Some people find salicylic acid treatments leave their scalps dry and eventually make the flaking of the skin worse.

6.) Tea-tree oil - This oil comes from the Australian Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia). A growing number of shampoos now include tea-tree oil as one of its ingredients. It has been used for centuries as an antifungal, antibiotic, and an antiseptic. However, some people are allergic to it.

7.) Green Tea potential - Researchers from the Medical College of Georgia in the US found that green tea may have potential for the treatment of dandruff and psoriasis.

Ideally, select a shampoo that has one of the above ingredients and shampoo your hair with it every day until your dandruff is under control. When that happens use them less frequently. You may find a particular shampoo stops being so effective after while, if this occurs switch to one that has another ingredient. Make sure the shampoo has time to stay on your scalp before you rinse it off - perhaps about five minutes. If you rinse it off too quickly the ingredient will not have enough time to work. If after several weeks of treating yourself you still have dandruff, you should consider seeing your doctor or a dermatologist (skin specialist).

A person with dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis will hardly every experience complications. If one were to occur, it would more likely to be caused by one of the dandruff treatments. If you find one of your dandruff shampoos, or scalp treatments is causing irritation, stop using it and ask your pharmacist to suggest another one. Bacteria can get in under your skin if there is a break on the skin of the scalp. If this happens, and you feel unwell, or that area of skin is red, tender and swollen, go and see your doctor.

Until next time.

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