Xerosis - Definition, Pictures, Treatment, Symptoms and Causes
Xerosis or "Xerosis cutis" is the medical term for dry skin. The dry skin condition is described as a result of insufficiency in the appropriate amount of water in the skin particularly in the most superficial layer of the skin known as the epidermis.
Xerosis equally affects both men and women although it is more common in elderly people as a result of the diminishing amount of oil in the skin due to the normal aging process. Children can also get affected with xerosis. This skin condition may be mild and temporary which may last for a few days to a few weeks while it may be severe and lead to a long-term problem to some affected individual.
The epidermis is the outermost layer of the skin and is greatly involved in the process of xerosis. It is a stratified squamous epithelium that is made of a propagating basal and suprabasal keratinocytes that act as a protective barrier of the body against the harmful effect of the environment. It also protects the body against pathogens that can potentially infect the body thus acting as the barrier of the skin. The epidermis also acts in regulating the total amount of moisture or water in the body to be released into the atmosphere. The human eyelids contain the thinnest of epidermis while the thickest layer of epidermis can be found in the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
The epidermis is also comprised of lipids and protein. The lipid component of the epidermis facilitates the prevention of dehydration that can lead to skin dryness. Insufficiency in the lipid or the absence of lipid in the epidermis will cause the skin to lose its moisture thereby compromising the protective barrier function. The loss of the lipid and the damage to protection barrier is potential for skin breakdown that can lead to the condition known as Xerosis or dry skin. Xerosis is not a serious or life-threatening condition but it is discomforting and can affect the cosmetic concern where the dry skin can result to shrivel and wrinkles on the skin that can be unsightly or unattractive.
Xerosis can be a temporary skin problem or it may be a lifelong concern to others depending on the severity of the skin condition. The most common areas of the skin that can be affected with xerosis are the sides or flanks of the trunk, the front area of the lower legs or the shin, and the backs of the hands. The signs and symptoms of xerosis vary from one person to another depending on the age, overall health status, the area affected and the underlying condition that is causing the skin to dry.
The signs and symptoms of xerosis include the following:
- Itchiness or pruritis is the most common symptom of xerosis which can worsen the severity of the condition often as a result of frequent scratching
- Rough or dry skin appearance or may also be shrunken and dehydrated instead of the normal and smooth appearance
- Flaking or scaling of the skin that can be mild or severe
- Reddish or pinkish discoloration of the affected site due to irritation
- Deep fissures may occur due to severe dryness that can cause the skin to break thereby putting an affected individual at risk for infection
The cycle of itching and scratching can exacerbate the condition of the skin. The constant scratching and rubbing of the affected site can lead to the development of thick and leathery skin or may result to raise bumps. The constant scratching can also lead to a break in the skin or lesion that is potential for infection.
The prognosis for xerosis is relatively good and often responds well to treatment and other home remedies. It is therefore necessary to consult a doctor if the skin condition is not responding to treatment and if the following signs and symptoms occur:
- Extensive scaling or peeling of the skin.
- Interrupted sleeping pattern due to severe dryness and itchiness of the skin.
- The onset of open sores or lesions and infection that resulted from constant scratching.
- Persistent dryness of the skin despite treatment and other home remedies.
There is no single etiology to define the onset of xerosis. The onset of dry skin can be influenced by either an internal factors or external factors.
The external factor causing the xerosis is the most common among the majority of reported cases of xerosis and these include the following:
Weather condition is the most common trigger of xerosis as the peak onset is during the cold winter months. The drop in the levels of humidity and temperature greatly affects the moist condition of the skin and can only make the dry skin and other skin condition worsen.
Air-conditioner and heater can lessen the humidity at home and any confined spaces which can influence or trigger the skin to dry resulting to xerosis.
Use of harsh soaps and detergents can strip off the skin of lipids that are essential to keep the skin moist. Most soaps and detergents including shampoos and other bath essentials contain chemicals that are harmful to the sensitive skin which can damage the epidermis including the lipid and proteins contained in it.
Hot showers and baths can damage the lipid barriers of the epidermis. Prolonged and frequent bathing or showering with hot water is potential for skin damage and xerosis.
Exposure to sunlight in frequent and prolonged frequency can potentially damage the skin and result to xerosis. The ultraviolet ray of the sun can penetrate the skin and the deeper layer of the skin which can damage not only the epidermis but also the deep dermis of the skin as well.
Internal factors causing xerosis include the following:
- Atopic dermatitis
- Thyroid disorders
- Age advancement
- Family history
Xerosis responds well to treatment and home remedies including changes in lifestyle. The aim of treatment is to restore the moisture of the skin and improving the skin appearance including the relief of symptoms.
Application of emollients and lubricants are the primary treatment for xerosis in restoring the moist condition of the skin. Mild xerosis can be given with light moisturizing lotions such as:
- Lubriderm lotion
- Cetaphil lotion
- AmLactin 12% lotion
Highly dry skin may be given with moisturizing products such as Vaseline and Aquaphor. Internal factors causing xerosis are treated after the skin dryness has been managed. Appropriate treatment is given to underlying conditions that caused the onset of xerosis.
Lifestyle change and home remedies also best treat xerosis. It is best to avoid frequent hot bath and showers and is advisable to put on moisturizer right after every bath. Harsh bath soap and other detergents and shampoos should also be best avoided and instead replaced with other hypoallergenic products. Drink plenty of water about 10 to 12 glasses a day to keep the skin and the body well hydrated.