Why Do You Have Dandruff with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?
Are you plagued by dandruff that reoccurs with irritating frequency and find it is not reacting to anything you’ve tried to treat it? You are not alone! Dandruff is one of the markers for PCOS, and although it is not life threatening it can cause a great deal of embarrassment and discomfort. Most people attribute their dandruff to simple dry skin and assume a medicated shampoo or hot oil treatment will quickly fix them right up. This would usually be the case, but the main cause of dandruff for women with PCOS is slightly more serious than a reaction to dry overheated indoor air.5
PCOS skin and hair conditions are caused by a disorder called seborrheic dermatitis, which is affected quite strongly by the hormone imbalances prevalent with PCOS.9 This condition manifests in more irritating symptoms than dry skin-related dandruff and is chronic, but it can be treated with medication, herbal remedies, and a little common sense. Managing your Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome can also have a positive impact on the severity and frequency of seborrheic dermatitis so make sure you have a successful action plan in place characterized by good diet, regular exercise, and high quality nutritional supplements.5
Do You Know How You Developed PCOS?
PCOS affects between 5-10 percent of women of child bearing age so you would think it would be a priority to discover what causes it. Unfortunately, doctors don’t know the definitive cause of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, but they do know it can be influenced by several conditions and factors such as:
- Heredity:?Your risk of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome increases if a family member also has this disorder.6
- Low-grade inflammation:? This factor actually connects back to Insulin Resistance. Inflammation is a response that occurs in the body when your white blood cells fight infection. This response can be caused by many factors, including certain foods that can cause the white blood cells to release Insulin Resistance causing substances. Women with PCOS often have chronic low grade inflammation.2
- Excess insulin:? This relates to a condition called Insulin Resistance, which can cause hormone imbalances. In normal circumstances the hormone called insulin is released by the pancreas and it transfers sugar out of the blood into the cells where the sugar is either stored as fat or converted into energy. Insulin Resistance means your body cannot use insulin effectively in this manner and the pancreas begins to produces excessive amounts of insulin to remove the sugar from the blood. This high level of insulin creates all sorts of issues in the body and hormone imbalances ensue, such as high male hormones (androgens), high estrogen, and low progesterone.1
These hormone imbalances caused by Insulin Resistance can cause many PCOS skin and PCOS hair conditions. Increased androgen levels can be responsible for acne, male pattern baldness, acanthosis nigricans, hirsutism, and dandruff (seborrheic dermatitis).5
Is all dandruff due to PCOS?
Not all dandruff is related to PCOS, but its most common cause is seborrheic dermatitis.9 Dandruff can also be caused by simple dry skin as well. In the winter, in particular, constant warm dry air indoors and cold air outside can combine to create dry flaking skin. These flakes are usually small and light. If you have dry skin you will usually see it on other areas of your body like the hands, shins, and elbows.9
The cause of seborrheic dermatitis is not known definitively, but there are definitely factors that can play an important role in its development including elevated androgen levels. Seborrheic dermatitis can run in families, similar to PCOS, and can be more serious if you are obese, another symptom of PCOS.5
Some possible causes of seborrheic dermatitis are:
- Yeast:? It is unpleasant to consider but there are many microscopic life forms that grow all over your body in staggering profusion. One such life form is a fungus called malassezia, which along with bacteria grows in and feeds on your body’s oily secretions. This yeast can grow out of control when those secretions are excessive, like when the androgen levels in the body cause an over-production. This overgrowth of yeast can cause irritation to the skin, producing accelerated cell turnover. The old cells scale off in flakes and the oil causes them to clump together, creating the familiar dandruff flakes that cause so much embarrassment and stress.9
- Seasonal change:? This condition often gets worse in the winter months and improves in the summer.5
- Neurological disorders –Seborrheic dermatitis:? is often more prevalent in people with Parkinson’s disease or other neurological conditions.5
- Stress:? Stress can be a factor in many illnesses and conditions, and that is also the case with seborrheic dermatitis. Life events that cause stress or fatigue can cause flare-ups of this condition or make it more severe.9
Seborrheic Dermatitis is Considered to be a Marker for PCOS
Although the symptoms of PCOS can differ from woman to woman seborrheic dermatitis is considered to be a marker for this disorder.6 Some other signs to look for include:6
- Male pattern baldness
- Excessive hair growth
- Irregular periods
- Absent periods
- Ovarian cysts
- Heavy or prolonged periods
- Weight gain
- Menstrual pain
- Fluid retention
- Darkening of the skin
- Mood swings
- Acne not associated with puberty
What are the signs of seborrheic dermatitis?
Seborrheic dermatitis usually affects the scalp but can be present on other parts of the body that have sebaceous oil glands. Seborrheic dermatitis is not contagious but can be very uncomfortable and cause you embarrassment.1 This disorder can be chronic so recognizing its signs and symptoms can give you time to proactively treat it before the symptoms get out of hand.
Common symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis include:9
- Inflammation of the skin (redness)
- Patchy scaling or thick crusts on your scalp
- Yellow or white flakes (dandruff) on your hair, eyebrows, beard, scalp, or mustache
- Itching or soreness of the skin
- Red, greasy skin covered with white or yellow flakes or scales on the upper chest, face, armpits, in your groin area, back, sides of the nose, behind the ears, and on the back.
Does Nature Hold the Key to Managing Your Specific PCOS Symptoms?
Many women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome have turned to nutritional supplements and other natural treatments to help reduce their PCOS symptoms and address one of its underlying causes, Insulin Resistance.3 There is something almost comforting using plants, flowers, roots, leaves, vitamins, minerals, and therapeutic oils instead of synthetic medications; it make you feel connected to wise women over the centuries who also utilized these natural remedies. This connection is nice because it reminds you that you are not alone dealing with day-to-day PCOS issues such as dandruff.
What botanicals are considered to be helpful for treating dandruff?
The most common and favorite botanical ingredient choice of to treat seborrheic dermatitis for many herbalists is oat straw because it is very effective for improving skin conditions, depression, anxiety, stress, and even the quality of your sleep.3 Seborrheic dermatitis is affected by stress and fatigue so reducing those factors can definitely have a positive effect on the condition.
Many of the botanical ingredients that can be used to help alleviate PCOS symptoms can also be effective in treating dandruff, such as dandelion, red clover, and nettle, so utilizing them for PCOS will also indirectly help with the discomfort of the symptom.4
Some other botanicals that can be used for treating seborrheic dermatitis are agave, black hemp, butternut, chamomile, aloe vera, cleavers, English elm, neem leaves, maidenhair fern,7 figwort, grapevine root, English ivy, olive, goldseal,3 peach tree leaves, periwinkle, sage, soap bark, fenugreek, yucca, English walnut, and willow. These botanicals are most commonly used in a wash, lotion, shampoo, or cream.8
What else can you do to relieve the symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis?
Some other natural therapies are:
- Wash your hair often:? This can be kind of scary, particularly when you are experiencing symptoms like hair loss associated with PCOS. The last thing you want to do is speed up the process! Never fear, although you will notice some initial hair loss from increasing the frequency of your washing, this will eventually slow down because most of it can be attributed to hair stuck in the oily skin scales that are flaking off. Washing hair often will reduce the build-up of hormones on the scalp from PCOS, which in turn will create a healthier scalp and skin environment.
- Avoid harsh soaps and detergents:? It makes sense that using anything harsh will irritate your skin, but you might not have considered how harsh detergents can remain in your clothing and cause issues. Choose gentler products and take the time to rinse your skin and hair thoroughly to avoid irritating soap residues on your skin.
- Wear natural soft fibers:? Fabrics like cotton are pleasant on the skin and allow air to circulate around your skin.
- Do not scratch:? This is probably the hardest guideline to follow because a natural response to being itchy is to scratch. Unfortunately, scratching can increase irritation of the skin and worsen your seborrheic dermatitis symptoms.
It’s always a smart idea to consult your doctor before adding any natural remedy to your PCOS management strategies. Healthy lifestyle choices such as eating a balanced PCOS-friendly diet and participating in regular exercise might not be affected by added dandruff-relieving treatments, but if you are already using a nutritional supplement to help your PCOS you might run into unpleasant or unforeseen interactions between multiple supplements.7 Always err on the side of caution!
No Shortage of Treatments Available for Seborrheic Dermatitis (Dandruff).
There is no shortage of treatments available for seborrheic dermatitis and your choice will likely depend on the severity of the condition, your skin type and what area of the body is affected. Most people start out by treating it with creams and lotions but if it is severe your doctor might recommend a stronger prescription medication. You cannot eliminate this condition permanently because it is chronic. However, treatments can provide a great deal of relief and help you cope with the more embarrassing and visible signs of this PCOS hair and skin condition.
What is in the common treatment options for seborrheic dermatitis?
The shampoos, creams, and lotions will have different types of active ingredients designed to impact different causes of the condition. These active ingredients can be loosely placed in three different categories, which include corticosteroids, antifungal agents, andcalcineurin inhibitors. There are also other ingredients used for seborrheic dermatitis that do not fall squarely into these three groups such as selenium sulfide, coal tar, Zinc pyrithione, and salicylic acid. It is important to strictly follow all the instructions on each product to avoid any issues, and keep track if these treatments have an effect, because if your condition worsens you might need a prescription-strength shampoo or lotion.
- Corticosteroids:? This category is supposed to reduce itching and inflammation but can have some nasty side effects such as high blood sugar and excessive hair growth, and it can imbalance certain hormones. All these side effects can obviously have a negative impact on PCOS. Examples of corticosteroids include hydrocortisone, betamethasone, and desonide.
- Antifungal agents:? This category aims at reducing or eliminating the number of yeast in the irritated areas of your body. These agents are usually found in shampoo, creams, gels, foams, and lotions, but can cause irritation and itching. Two common antifungal agents are ciclopirox and ketoconazole.
- Calcineurin inhibitors:? These creams are usually available with a prescription and are usually only used when all other treatment options fail because they can increase the risk of lymphoma and skin cancer. Common calcineurin inhibitors include pimecrolimus and tacrolimus.
Can treating your PCOS also eliminate your seborrheic dermatitis?
Managing your PCOS can also reduce symptoms such as seborrheic dermatitis. There are several recommended treatment options for PCOS which include:
- Oral contraceptives:? This is the most common medication used to control and manage symptoms of PCOS such as menstrual irregularities, but obviously it is not a great option if you are trying to have a baby.
- Male hormone blockers:? These are generally used in conjunction with oral 1contraception to reduce high levels of androgens.1 Some common choices of male hormone blockers are flutamide, finasteride, and spironolactone.
- Metformin:? This drug was developed for type-2 diabetics to increase insulin levels while controlling blood sugar. It also has been quite effective for PCOS because it impacts Insulin Resistance and normalizes male hormone levels, which will definitely positively affect seborrheic dermatitis as well as the menstrual cycle.
Sam Thatcher, M.D., Ph.D. Understanding and managing Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). Inciid. [Online] [Cited: 07 23, 2012.] http://www.inciid.org/printpage.php?cat=pcos&id=505.
- Samuel S. Thatcher, MD, PhD, F.A.C.O.G. What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)? . OBGYN.Net. [Online] 11 10, 2011. [Cited: 07 23, 2012.] http://hcp.obgyn.net/polycystic-ovary-syndrome/content/article/1760982/1988415.
- Herbs for Seborrheic Dermatitis. Steady Health. [Online] 05 11, 2007. [Cited: 07 24, 2012.] http://www.steadyhealth.com/articles/Herbs_for_seborrheic_dermatitis_a91.html.
- Seborrheic Dermatitis. Native Remedies. [Online] [Cited: 07 24, 2012.] http://www.nativeremedies.com/ailment/natural-treatments-seborrheic-dermatitis.html.
- “BETTY ANNE JOHNSON, M.D., PH.D., and JULIA R. NUNLEY, M.D. Treatment of Seborrheic Dermatitis. American Family Physican. [Online] 05 01, 2000. [Cited: 07 23, 2012.] http://www.aafp.org/afp/2000/0501/p2703.html.
- About PCOS. Yale PCOS Program. [Online] [Cited: 07 11, 2012.] http://medicine.yale.edu/obgyn/rei/images/PCOS%20Inserts.web_tcm153-13313.pdf.
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. [Online] [Cited: 07 24, 2012.] http://nccam.nih.gov.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. Seborrheic Dermatitus. Mayo Clinic. [Online] 06 16, 2011. [Cited: 07 23, 2012.] http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/seborrheic-dermatitis/DS00984.
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