X is always one of the biggest challenges in the A to Z Blogging Challenge, and this year was no exception. Then I found out I had Xerosis Cutis! Problem solved, at least as far as the A to Z is concerned!
What is Xerosis Cutis?
Xerosis cutis is the medical term for abnormally dry skin. The name comes from the Greek word “xero,” which means dry. This affects the skin, the eyes, and mucous membranes.
We have probably all, at some time or other, suffered from dry skin, especially if we’re in the older category. It’s usually a minor and temporary problem, but it can be extremely uncomfortable. Your skin needs to stay moist if it’s going to be smooth. If it loses water and oils, it becomes dry and rough.
Xerosis may appear as dry, rough, flaky or scaly patches, perhaps even with skin cracks. In people with darker skin, xerosis may appear ashy in appearance.
Causes of Xerosis Cutis:
Dry skin is usually triggered by environmental factors. Here are some of the activities or conditions which may cause Xerosis.
- Cold weather especially with cold, dry winters.
- Living in areas of low humidity.
- Extremely hot weather.
- Use of central heaters at home or work.
- Too frequent baths.
- Using harsh soaps.
- Scrubbing the skin.
- Too hot water when bathing or showering.
- Too vigorous towel-drying.
- Dehydration from not drinking enough water. (See Water in the previous post.)
- Over-exposure to the sun.
- People older than 65 are more likely to develop the condition due to hormonal changes.
- Diabetics are at risk, so older people with diabetes are very likely to develop xerosis cutis.
- Certain medications such as diuretics can cause xerosis. Check with your pharmacist.
- Some diseases have dry skin as part of their symptoms. e.g. Atopic Dermatitis, Psoriasis, Thyroid imbalance, and Diabetes.
Symptoms of Xerosis
- Skin becomes dry, itchy, and scaly.
- This is especially on the arms and legs but may be only small patches. Mine is just one patch about 3 inches long and 1 inch wide on my leg, but it drives me crazy!
- white, flaky skin, especially in folk with darker skin.
- red or pink irritated skin.
- tight skin, especially after bath or shower.
- fine cracks appear on the skin.
- dry itchy eyes, when the glands in the conjunctiva no longer function normally.
- This causes a loss of tears and mucous.
- It can, strangely, also cause a wet discharge from the eyes.
- itchy dry mucous membranes elsewhere in the body.
Care at home
- Use an oil-based cream to hold in moisture.
- Look for creams containing lactic acid, urea, or both.
- A 1% hydrocortisone cream may help if the skin is very itchy. Ask your pharmacist for advice.
- Note that water-based lotions may irritate xerosis cutis. Lotions contain less oil than cream.
- Avoid sitting in front of heaters or using hot pads in bed.
- Take lukewarm baths or showers.
- Drink plenty water (see previous post).
- Coconut oil may help hold in moisture and relieve itching.
- Aloe Vera is not recommended as it may make the skin more sensitive.
- Use mild cleansers that have no fragrance or alcohol.
- Pat your skin dry instead of rubbing it with a towel.
- Apply skin moisturizer immediately after getting out of your bath or shower.
- I was told to put the cream on while still wet, then dab dry. This really helped.
- Avoid scratching. (Not so easy. Apply an anti-itch cream whenever necessary.)
- If needed, use a humidifier in your home.
- Apply sunscreen regularly when going outdoors.
- Avoid wearing nylon. Cotton fabrics allow your skin to breath.
- Stay hydrated. Drink at least 8 glasses of water daily unless you have a medical condition.
- Use gloves when washing dishes.
- Wash your clothes in a detergent without dyes or perfumes.
- Petrolatum or petroleum jelly (Vaseline®) can be applied frequently and often brings relief.
- Use hand cream every time you wash your hands.
- Apply a good moisturizing cream to your face first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
When to see the doctor
- If cracks break open, they may develop a bacterial infection.
- 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.
- Your skin starts to ooze.
- Large areas of skin start to peel.
- You develop a ring-shaped rash.
- Your skin doesn’t improve with your own home treatment within a few weeks.
- If your skin gets much worse or the problem spreads despite treatment.
- At the sign of blisters or very hard scaly patches of skin. You may be developing Eczema.
- Any signs of infection.
- If there’s no response after seven days of treatment (if you’ve been caring for it regularly.)
This has been more of a medical article than my usual, but I believe it is important. If you develop Xerosis cutitis it can make your life most unpleasant. It can also prevent your mind from functioning well as there’s nothing worse than an aggravating itch that won’t go away! Even if you do not have any of these problems, start to look after your skin now. It is one of these problems that will catch up with you sooner or later if you don’t take adequate precautions.
Only two more posts to go in this A to Z series, and both of them are going to be fun and encouraging. So make sure you read Y is for Yes! And Z is for Zipa-dee-doo-dah! over the next two days.