Do You Have Dry Skin or Something More Serious?
Dry skin is common – especially in the winter. But that doesn’t mean every scaly, red, or itchy patch is just minor dryness. Without the right diagnosis, you won’t find the relief you need. Take a look at some of the dermatological conditions that mimic dry skin and what you can do about them. Atopic Dermatitis
Atopic dermatitis is a general category of dermatological conditions. Patients with atopic dermatitis may have allergies, sensitivities, and other similar issues following exposure to soap, cosmetics, and other potential irritants or allergens.
This common condition affects almost 28 million people in the U.S., according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Skin symptoms often include:
- Dry skin. Itchy or flaky skin is one of the most noticeable signs. Moisturizing with a mild cream or lotion, avoiding triggers (known irritants/allergens), and skipping harsh soaps can all help to combat dryness.
- Raised bumps. These acne-like bumps may burst and ooze fluid or look crusty.
- Skin cracks. Along with excessive dryness, the skin may get scaly or crack.
- Patchy spots. Patients with atopic dermatitis may have red or brownish-gray skin patches.
Only a dermatologist can diagnosis atopic dermatitis. Given the number of potential causes, a professional assessment is important. Pinpointing the cause will guide the treatment and may help you to prevent flare-ups by avoiding specific triggers. Impetigo
This contagious skin condition is a bacterial infection that often spreads quickly through schools, sports teams, and other places where people are in close contact. According to the AAD, the most common causes of impetigo are the staph and strep strains of bacteria.
Typical impetigo symptoms include:
- Sores. Non-bullous impetigo often causes red or pinkish itchy sores. These can burst, resulting in raw or patches of skin.
- Crusty skin. Along with a raw appearance, impetigo sores can also crust over.
- Blisters. Bullous impetigo can result in fluid-filled blisters that break open and eventually crust over.
Treatment of this bacterial infection typically requires a prescription antibiotic cream. Over-the-counter moisturizers may soothe the area but won’t treat the underlying problem. Psoriasis
Unlike atopic dermatitis and impetigo, this skin condition isn’t caused by an allergen or specific bacterial infection. While the exact cause isn’t completely understood by the medical community, psoriasis may result from an immune system malfunction. The common signs and symptoms of psoriasis often include:
- Dry skin. Even though this may look like normal dryness, it often gets much worse than a few scales. Patients with psoriasis often have cracking that may bleed.
- Silvery scales. Along with patchy, red areas, this dermatological issue may also cause thick, silver or gray scales that cover the dry patches.
- Itching. The patches or dry-appearing areas may itch, burn, or feel sore.
A doctor’s diagnosis is necessary for proper treatment. Depending on the specific symptoms and the doctor’s recommendations, treatment may include corticosteroids, vitamin D analogues, salicylic acid, topical retinoids, or other prescription medications. While moisturizers may reduce discomfort, they won’t completely treat psoriasis. Acne
Acne affects nearly 50 million people in the U.S. every year, according to the AAD. While acne itself typically doesn’t cause dryness, the red bumps may mimic dry skin irritation. Likewise, crusting that occurs after pimples burst may also look like excessively dry skin. Along with a red or irritated appearance, acne treatments can also cause dramatic drying.
The symptoms of acne depend on the severity. Common symptoms often include:
- Red bumps. Pimples, or small red bumps, are a primary sign of acne. The bumps may include fluid-filled (or pus-filled) ends and can burst or crust over.
- Blackheads. Some acne patients also have plugged or clogged pores that appear as black dots on the skin.
- Nodules. These below-the-skin lumps are often painful.
A wide range of treatments is available for acne, including over-the-counter and prescription medications. These often cause drying, making it important to follow the doctor’s recommendations precisely.
Do you have dry skin or a condition that looks like dry skin? Contact East Carolina Dermatology and Skin Surgery, PLLC, for more information.