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Ultra dry skin

For most people, dry skin can be managed with moisturiser and other skin care approaches.

However, for ultra dry skin, an assessment by a doctor or dermatologist may be needed.

These might be cases of dry skin that don't respond to normal dry skin treatment or that are especially severe. They might also be the result of an underlying health problem.

When should you seek medical advice for very dry skin?

What causes dry skin?

Your skin is naturally protected by oils that keep it moist and soft. Most cases of dry skin are caused by external factors that physically strip away this protective barrier. They include:

  • Harsh soaps
  • Long, hot baths and showers
  • Swimming
  • Abrasive, itchy clothing
  • Cold, windy weather
  • Dry heat, either natural or from indoor heating

Dry skin can also be caused by bodily changes, medical conditions, or treatments. These include:

  • Increasing age - 75% of people over the age of 64 have dry skin
  • Hormonal changes
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Diabetes
  • Malnutrition, which might result from an eating disorder
  • Side effects from treatments for other conditions, like acne, rosacea, and allergies
  • Family history of dry skin
  • Other diseases

While some serious diseases can cause dry skin, don't be alarmed.  Most people who have dry skin are perfectly healthy. But even normal dry skin shouldn't be ignored, since it can lead to further problems. Untreated dry skin can result in dermatitis, which causes swelling and redness. If the skin becomes severely cracked, it can also become infected, and that requires more extensive treatment.

Do I need expert dry skin treatment?

How do you know if you need to see a doctor for dry skin treatment? Experts have a rule of thumb. Try at-home dry skin treatments, such as using moisturisers, humidifiers, and milder soap, for two weeks. If they haven't helped, it's time to see your doctor.

You should also see an expert for dry skin treatment if you have any of the following specific symptoms:

  • Sudden onset of dry skin
  • Sudden onset of itchiness
  • Severe dry skin that's cracking, swollen, red, bleeding, or oozing
  • The development of dry skin when you have other medical conditions like poor blood circulation or diabetes
  • Dry skin that seems to have developed since you started a new medication

Doctors can be an enormous help in refining your dry skin therapy. They can go over what might be causing your dry skin and rule out any more serious causes. They can give you a new dry skin care regime. They might also need to prescribe or recommend medicines for dry skin treatment until your skin is healthier. These could include:

  • Antihistamines, to reduce itching
  • Topical creams, like corticosteroids, to reduce swelling
  • Creams or medicines to suppress the response of the immune system, which may be causing irritation
  • Other treatments to control the underlying medical condition causing your dry skin

Remember that ignoring dry skin can have consequences. This is true for everyone, but especially for people who already have chronic health conditions like diabetes. Over time, dry skin can become worse and harder to treat. 

So if you have any concerns about your dry skin, make an appointment with your doctor or ask for a referral to a dermatologist. It's the only way to be sure you're getting the best dry skin treatment possible.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith on November 15, 2013

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