Dry, flaky skin can occur anywhere in the body, including the genital area. It is often associated with a very common skin condition called eczema, a non-contagious, chronic inflammation that is characterized by dry skin, itchy skin. Skin bumps, blisters, and scaly patches may also develop. Constant scratching may worsen the skin lesions and cause infection, which can result in increased inflammation.
What is Eczema?
Eczema is a common skin problem that is also sometimes called atopic dermatitis. It usually affects babies and young children, but adults can develop it, too. This inflammatory skin condition is often believed to be an allergic reaction, but the cause is unknown. Having dry, irritable skin reduces the skin's ability to function as an effective barrier, and certain factors may trigger a breakout, leading to itching, redness, rashes, pain and other skin lesions. Genetic factors, immune system dysfunction, as well as environmental factors may also contribute to this condition.
Eczema symptoms usually appear before the age of five, but the condition may persist into adolescence and adulthood. Symptoms may come and go, and flares may be triggered by certain factors such as taking long, hot baths, use of irritating skin care products, changes in temperature and humidity, sweat, stress, certain foods, and contact with certain materials and clothing. Scratching makes the symptoms worse, and can lead to bacterial infection. However, mild episodes may resolve even without treatment.
When to See a Doctor
Symptoms of eczema often improve with simple home remedies, but it is important for you to see your doctor if your symptoms do not get better or if they worsen, leading to pain and discomfort, which may interfere with sleep and normal activities. If you suspect that an infection has developed, consult your doctor for proper treatment.
Home Remedies for Dry, Flaky Skin
The goals of treatment for eczema are to reduce itching and inflammation, and to prevent worsening of the condition. This may involve lifestyle changes and the use of certain medications.
To prevent or treat skin dryness and flaking, keep the skin well-hydrated by applying moisturizing lotions and creams. It is also important to avoid over-bathing and using harsh soaps and skin care products. Application of emollient or petrolatum-based creams to the body after a short, lukewarm bath can help seal in skin moisture. Lifestyle modifications include avoiding triggers for skin flares, including foods that may cause allergic reactions such as eggs, skin irritants such as lanolin and wool, strong chemicals and solvents, sudden changes in temperature, stress, and excessive sweating.
Over-the-counter corticosteroid creams and ointments may be applied on the skin to reduce inflammation and itching. For severe itching, oral antihistamines may be taken at night to improve sleep and control itching. Scratching the skin must be avoided to prevent infection. Nails must be cut short and hands kept clean. Cold, moist compresses may also be applied on affected skin to reduce itching.
Wear cool, cotton clothing, including underwear, and avoid rough, tight, or wool clothing. This is especially important during hot weather and during exercise to prevent excessive sweating.
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