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Xerotic Dermatitis

1.    What is xerotic dermatitis?

Xerotic dermatitis is also known as asteatotic dermatitis, eczema craquelae, or “winter itch”  Xerotic dermatitis is a very bothersome whole-body itchiness that is usually worse on the arms and shins.

2.    What does xerotic dermatitis look like?

The affected skin is usually dry, flaky, cracked and red.  Blisters are not seen.  Sometimes the area affected looks like a well-defined plaque (usually on the shins).  Occasionally the cracked skin can become infected with bacteria and it will then become crusted and swollen.

3.    Who gets xerotic dermatitis?

Elderly individuals are most often affected since the skin loses its ability to maintain its normal water barrier.

4.    What causes xerotic dermatitis?

Frequent and lengthy hot showers and baths with harsh soaps also lead to xerotic dermatitis, especially in the wintertime when homes are usually over-heated and have less humidity.

5.    What triggers xerotic dermatitis?

As discussed above.

6.    How can my xerotic dermatitis be treated?

Clear understanding of the causes of xerotic dermatitis are important in preventing it from occurring, i.e. not bathing as frequently and not using harsh soaps.  Soapless cleanser such as Cetaphil cleanser is recommended as an alternative.  Also, immediate application of thick emollients, such as Cetaphil or Eucerin creams (NO LOTIONS as they are too watery and dehydrate the skin) or Aquaphor or plain Vaseline ointments all over the body after bathing so as to seal in moisture.  This means slathering on the creams within the first FIVE MINUTES after bathing.  Sometimes, mid-potency topical steroid creams are recommended for 1 to 2 weeks for relief.

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