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(8) Skin Disorders


Skin Disease & Disorders : Symptoms of Skin Problems


What about dry skin and itch?

Does your skin sometimes get dry and itchy? Ever have a persistent itch? Do you ever wonder what you can do about it?

Here are some clues. One of the most common complaints in my patients over 65 years old is itchy, dry skin. Because each adult is covered by about 20 square feet (2 square meters) of skin and is constantly exposed to possible irritants, you’ll get an itch now and then.

Senile pruritus refers to the dry skin of aging. This term dates back to a time when the term senile had a more benign connotation, perhaps like misplacing your keys instead of feeling your mind slip into the shadows. Dry skin occurs most often on the legs of older patients but may also be present on the hands and trunk.

What can you do about dry skin?

Mild itch may respond to nonpharmacologic measures, which include avoiding hot water and irritants, maintaining proper humidity, using cool water compresses, frequently applying moisturizers, trimming the nails, and applying behavior therapy.

Treatment of moderate dry skin and itch includes ammonium lactate 12% lotion, moisturizers, and topical corticosteroids, as well as certain behavioral-management tactics. The keratolytic (topical agents that remove the dead, flaky portions of skin) effect of ammonium lactate 12% lotion is effective in reducing the severity of dry skin.

Creams that contain keratolytic agents such as urea are not as hydrolyzing but can rid the skin of the abnormally thickened layer. In individuals with sensitive skin, sensitive-skin variant formulation should be substituted for alpha-hydroxy acids; the latter can cause stinging and irritation. Liberal use of moisturizers reduces scaling and enhances the desquamation process. In moderate to severe cases, treatment with application of prescription topical steroids and oral medications may be added.

Secondary treatment consists of increasing hydration and moisturizing the skin. It may be helpful to apply nonscented emollients, such as white petrolatum, liberally and frequently on the skin immediately after bathing and frequently throughout the day. Emollients are creams or lotions that can be applied to the affected area to prevent water from evaporating from the skin’s surface. They also smooth over the scaly edges that can flake off and cause intense itching.

Management suggestions include the following:

• Reduce the frequency of bathing with lukewarm (not hot) wate• Use a nonirritant soap such as Cetaphil®, Olay®, Aveeno®, or Dove®

• Avoid harsh skin cleansers

• Apply moisturizer directly on unsightly skin

• Limit friction from washcloths, rough clothing, and abrasives

• Use air humidification in dry environments

With dry skin and itching, you have now learned some important ways to make you and your skin more satisfied.

One of the most common complaints in my patients over 65 years old is itchy, dry skin.


Senile pruritus - The itching of skin that occurs due to the breakdown and aging of skin of the elderly.



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