What's Causing Your Dry Skin Problem?

Posted by administrator Monday, May 23, 2011

A dry skin problem can be uncomfortable and even maddening.  Your skin might feel tight and painful; it might look dull or red or flaky.  Worst of all is the itchiness -- the sort of overwhelming itchiness that makes you feel like you're infested with fleas, that keeps you awake at night, miserably raking your skin with a back scratcher.
"Dry skin is extremely common," says Barney Kenet, MD, a dermatologist from New York Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical Center.  "There are probably close to 100 million dried out, itchy people in this country right now." And if the itching weren't bad enough, a dry skin problem can be more than just a superficial issue, experts say.
"Your intact, healthy skin is your body's primary defense against infection," says Claude Burton MD, professor of dermatology at Duke University School of Medicine.  If you let your skin get dried out and cracked, you could be giving all sorts of nasty bacteria a way in.  That can lead to more serious problems.
There are lots of good reasons to do something about your dry, itchy skin -- your looks, your health, and your sanity.  So it's time to put down the back scratcher and really figure out what's really causing your dry skin problem.
For many, dry skin is not a sign of a skin condition or disease, but is simply caused by harsh soaps, itchy clothing, misusing moisturizer, and long, hot showers. But the medications you take -- and even medical conditions such as diabetes, psoriasis, hypothyroidism, and malnutrition -- can also cause severe dry skin. Read on to understand how and why these problems dry out your skin.

Understanding Dry Skin

Let's start with some skin basics.  Normal, healthy skin is coated in a thin layer of natural lipids, or fatty substances.  They keep in moisture, leaving the skin soft and supple.
What causes dry skin -- or xerosis, as it's known medically? Usually, something in the environment -- or something you're doing to your skin -- is stripping away these fatty oils, leaving your skin unprotected.  Less often, the cause is internal; a health condition or genetic predisposition is making your skin dry out.
While patches of dry, itchy skin can appear anywhere, it's most common on the arms, hands, lower legs, and abdomen.  Dry skin is often felt more than it's seen, but on some people it can be noticeable and embarrassing.  For many African-Americans, dry skin is a special concern, since the flakes of skin can look gray, or "ashy," says Vesna Petronic-Rosic, MD, assistant professor of medicine and director of the Dermatology Outpatient Clinic at the University of Chicago Medical School.
If untreated, dry skin can sometimes lead to dermatitis -- inflammation of the skin -- swelling, and infection.  The good news is that just as most causes of dry skin are external, most cures for dry skin are external.  With careful dry skin care, you can usually solve the problem.

source : http://www.webmd.com/skin-beauty/features/dry-skin-causes

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