Seborrheic Dermatitis: Cri de Coeur

NY Times image

NY Times Image

In his Op-Ed piece, “Diary of a Creep,” published in the Sunday January 6, 2013 New York Times, the journalist Rend Smith gives the best description of seborrheic dermatitis we have ever read.  Here are excerpts from that piece which can be read in its entirety on the NY Times website.

“My problem isn’t as luxurious as aging.,,Yet there’s obviously a corruption, a slow, unidentifiable toxin seeping into my life.
I have volcano-ash dandruff, so I haven’t gotten my new hair “shaped up,” in the parlance of black barbershops, out of embarrassment…
But worse than anything else is my face, or more specifically, the skin there. The condition I have,, is called seborrheic dermatitis. Though it’s probably the most important term in my life right now, I have to look up the spelling each time I type it. As I’m generally a compulsively correct speller, I assume that’s the result of a mental block built around anguish.
All year long, but particularly in summer, the condition, which scientists think is either caused by a fungus or a yeast, but is essentially the result of an immune system kicked into overdrive, producing new cells pell-mell, causes my skin to peel away like paint warped by leaks, in big crusty flakes. What the flakes leave behind on this dark-skinned black man are patches of skin missing their requisite melanin, the sallowness that takes its place making me as splotchy as a weather map. Sometimes when I have a flare-up I can fool myself into believing the effect is minimal, but the Northern Virginia community I live in is there to remind me it’s not.”

This is a good piece for anyone with seborrhea or seborrheic dermatitis to read.  Although dermatologists see these conditions with regularity, we rarely hear a cry from the heart like this.  It is also curious that Mr. Smith mentions the poet Charles Bukowski whose memorable personal narrative about acne can be found in his book, “Ham on Rye.”

References:
Here is and an excellent review in English from the Annals of Brazilian Dermatology
eMedicine chapter on Seborrheic Dermatitis.

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