A person can have dry skin as a result of: dehydration; exposure to extreme weather conditions, and; reaction to medication. When dry skin occurs, the skin loses its moisture and would appear rough, flaky and cracked. Dry skin can also occur as a side effect of chemotherapy. Drugs used for cancer treatments like 5_FU can caused extreme skin dryness to patients.
Normal skin is generally soft and supple. It normally contains 10% to 30% water. An oily substance called the sebum protects the outer skin from losing its moisture. Losing the sebum would result to dry and flaky skin. Dry skin condition is also medically known as xerosis. It is an affliction that affects both the young and elderly.
What causes dry skin?
1. Lack of sebum – this is common with the elderly. As you grow older, the sebaceous glands which produces the sebum decreases. The blood flow to the skin also decreases. These two factors results to cracked and flaky skin as one grows older.
2. Lifestyle – factors leading to problematic skin disorders would depend on how you go about doing your bathroom vanities. Too much scrubbing, showering and the use of abrasive soap can do damage to the skin.
3. Environmental conditions – excessive sun exposure, swimming, and windy air can be harmful to epidermal tissues. So can excessive dry indoor air from indoor heaters, would most likely bring about ‘winter itch’ syndromes in some people.
4. Medical reason – dry skin is prevalent with people who are diabetic or have skin allergies. It can also be a symptom for hypothyroidism, kidney failure and sjogrens syndrome. It can likely be caused by the intake of medications or of treatments that are used for say, cancer patients.
Medication for dry skin
The most popular medication for skin problems are as follows:
1. Urea Cream – is a kerotolytic emollient which is topically applied. This is used as treatment for dry rough skin, skin cracks and fissures, eczema, psoriasis, keratoses and calluses.These are normally pack in plastic bottles and are labeled as lotion for dry skin.
2. Ammonium Lactate – Combination of lactic acid and ammonium hydroxide. This is use as moisturizer and is good for the treatment of dry, scaly and itchy skin. This is a topical medication that should not be applied to the face especially the mouth and the eyes. The cream should not also be applied to irritated or bruised skin. This ointment should be avoided if there will be prolonged sun exposure and if the skin is sensitive. This is another lotion for dry skin that might need doctor’s prescription.
3. Topical Emollients – these are lotions for problematic skin that can be bought off the counter. These are made of substances that are generally applied to the skin to prevent dryness. There are many brands of topical lotions in the market today. This topical lotion however, should not be applied in the face especially the nose, eyes and mouth. Sun exposure should also be avoided since the skin can become sensitive to UV lights.
For extremely itchy skin, a doctor may prescribe the use of hydrocortisone cream. The application is in small amount and is applied when there is chronic skin problem. It is however suggested that this medication be used only in extreme cases or when the patient is itching badly. Skipping medication every few days is suggested to avoid resistance to the medications. Using topical emollients when the skin is not that itchy can increase the effectiveness of the hydrocortisone cream.