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Xerosis cutis is the medical term for abnormally dry skin. This name comes from the Greek word “xero,” which means dry.
Dry skin is common, especially in the elderly. It is usually a minor and temporary problem, but may cause discomfort. Your skin needs moisture to stay smooth. As you age, retaining moisture in the skin becomes more difficult. Your skin may become dry and rough as it loses water and oils.
Dry skin is more common during the cold winter months. Modifying your daily routine by taking shorter showers with lukewarm water and by using moisturizers can help prevent xerosis cutis.
Dry skin is linked to a decrease in the oils on the surface of the skin. It is usually triggered by environmental factors. The following activities or conditions may lead to dry skin:
Xerosis cutis is worse during the cold winter months when the air is very dry (low humidity).
Older people are more susceptible to developing the condition than younger people.
Symptoms of xerosis cutis include:
Treatment is aimed at relieving your symptoms. Treating dry skin at home includes regularly using moisturizers on the skin. Usually, an oil-based cream is more effective at holding in moisture than a water-based cream. Look for creams that contain the ingredients lactic acid or lactic acid and urea. A topical steroid medication, such as hydrocortisone one percent cream, can also be used if the skin is very itchy. Ask a pharmacist to recommend a moisturizing cream or product that will work for you.
If your skin is oozing, has large areas that are peeling, has a ring-shaped rash, does not improve within a few weeks, or gets much worse despite treatment, see a dermatologist. A dermatologist is a doctor who specializes in disorders of the skin. You may have a fungal or bacterial infection, an allergy, or another skin condition. Excessive scratching of dry skin can also lead to an infection.
Dry skin in younger people may be caused by a condition called atopic dermatitis, commonly known as eczema. Eczema is characterized by extremely dry, itchy skin. Blisters and hard, scaly skin is common in those with this condition. A dermatologist can help determine if you or your child has eczema.
Dry skin cannot always be prevented, especially as you age. However, you can help avoid or reduce the symptoms of xerosis cutis by simply modifying your daily routine.
Written by: Jacquelyn Cafasso and Kathryn Watsonon: Jan 24, 2017
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