Dry Flaky Hands
The skin on your hands can become dry and flaky when it loses more water or oil than it should, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. You are at increased risk of having dry, flaky hands when you live in a low-humidity climate, when you age and when your hands are frequently exposed to water. Dry skin isn't generally a serious health problem, but you may need to treat it to alleviate discomfort and reduce your risk of complications.
Signs and Symptoms
When you have dry hands, fine lines become more apparent, your skin feels rougher and is flaky. Your hands may also appear red, feel itchy and seem tight after exposure to water. If you have severely dry hands, they may develop deep cracks that bleed.
You may not need to see a doctor for your dry hands if you take some steps to remedy the problem at home. Avoid frequent hand washing, and minimize contact with water by using waterproof gloves when engaging in an activity that might require you to wet or wash your hands, recommends the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. Wearing knitted or leather gloves can help protect your hands when you go out in cold and dry weather, and wearing cotton gloves can help you seal in a greasy ointment when you sleep at night. Any time you must get your hands wet, gently blot them dry and follow up immediately by spreading on a thick moisturizing cream to seal in the remaining moisture.
You risk developing more severe skin conditions if you don't properly care for dry flaky hands. For example, you may get areas of skin that are dermatitic, or inflamed, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. You might also develop folliculitis -- inflammation of the hair follicles -- or cellulitis, which is a dangerous bacterial infection of the deep layers of skin that could enter the blood and lymphatic system through bleeding cracks in dry skin.
Although most cases of dry and flaky hands can be reversed or improved with home care, you may need to see your doctor if the condition gets worse. Get in touch with your doctor if your skin care efforts don't lead to any improvement, if your hands are red, if your itching and dryness interfere with your ability to sleep, if your dry hands have any open sores or if large areas of skin are scaling or peeling off.
Your doctor may recommend an over-the-counter skin cream that contains lactic acid or a mix of urea and lactic acid if your hands are extremely dry and scaly. He may need to prescribe a stronger cream or ointment if you have a more serious skin condition. If your dry hands develop cracks that expose your body to bacteria, your doctor may also prescribe wet dressings to contract your skin and reduce the likelihood of infection.
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