Malassezia Yeast May Not Drive Seborrheic Dermatitis

Sometimes, the itch from seborrheic dermatitis can be – frankly – unreal. This common, chronic skin condition causes flaky, greasy, scaly, and itchy skin on different areas of the body. While seborrheic dermatitis is often seen on the scalp, it can also be found in other areas with sebaceous oil glands, such as your upper back and chest, the creases around your nose, behind your ears, your belly button, your face and forehead, and even your groin. Yeast has long been indicated as the cause of seborrheic dermatitis: Malassezia yeast, specifically. Yet recent research into this condition found that yeast may not be as big of a dermatitis driver as we once believed.

Identifying the Role of Yeast

Gabrielle M. Grasso writes that dermatologist Dr. Raj Chovatiya, MD, PhD, MSCI recently explored the role of Malassezia yeast in seborrheic dermatitis development. In his study, co-authored by Christy H. Chang in the Archives of Dermatological Research, Dr. Chovatiya explains that:

Historically, many researchers have theorized a central, causative role of Malassezia spp. based on prior studies including the proliferation of Malassezia yeast on lesional skin of some SD patients and empiric clinical response to antifungal therapy. However, upon closer examination, many of these findings have not been reproducible nor consistent.

This is because scientists have found Malassezia yeast in different areas of the body in healthy individuals (i.e. individuals who don’t have seborrheic dermatitis). Although this condition does sometimes respond well to antifungal treatment, researchers believed that other factors must be at play. To Dr. Chovatiya, skin barrier dysregulation and immune system dysregulation make the most sense as causative options. Skin barrier dysregulation can lead to the formation of many different skin disorders (such as psoriasis), while immune dysregulation contributes to the immune system either overreacting or not adequately addressing yeast proliferation. Essentially, says Dr. Chovatiya, this dysregulation is the cause of seborrheic dermatitis; while the yeast may influence this condition, it does not necessarily cause it.

Another study performed by Dr. Chovatiya, and published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, discovered that Zoryve is effective in treating seborrheic dermatitis on the scalp in people of all different hair types.

Understanding Seborrheic Dermatitis

An estimated 11% of the population develops seborrheic dermatitis throughout their life. According to the Cleveland Clinic, this condition is most common in:

  • Infants younger than 3 months old
  • Adults between ages 30-60
  • Men
  • Caucasians
  • People with oily skin
  • Those with a history of psoriasis
  • Individuals who are immunosuppressed, have depression, have Down syndrome, or have epilepsy, facial nerve palsy, or Parkinson’s disease
  • People taking lithium, buspirone, haloperidol decanoate, or chlorpromazine

This condition may appear as red scales, crusty yellow scales, blepharitis (scaly redness by your eyelids), itchy white flakes on your scalp, flaky and flower-shaped patches on your chest or hairline, pink plaques on your face, redness in skin folds, or inflamed hair follicles. This condition should not cause hair loss. Treatments include prescription shampoos, medicated gels and topical ointments, oral antifungal treatment, and light therapy.

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

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