Dry Patches of Skin on the Legs
Dry patches of skin on the legs can cause discomfort and embarrassment, and distract from activities such as work and exercise. Although patches of dry skin are rarely a cause for medical concern, dryness that persists or is accompanied by other symptoms such as cracks or bleeding might require medical evaluation. Fortunately, most cases of dry patches of skin on the legs are treatable or preventable with lifestyle changes and self-care at home.
Dry skin develops more often in the dry, cold winter months, when indoor and outdoor humidity is low. According to the University of Iowa website, other symptoms -- including thickened skin, scales, cracks, itchiness and inflammation -- might accompany patches of dry skin on the legs. The patches of dry skin might flake or peel off, and in severe cases, deep cracks that bleed might develop.
Dermatologists or general practitioners diagnose the cause of dry patches of skin on the legs by conducting a physical exam and interviewing the patient about when symptoms started, any factors that worsen symptoms, and by taking a medical and personal behavior history. If medical conditions such as thyroid problems are suspected as the cause of dry skin patches, doctors might order blood tests to identify these conditions.
Most cases of dry patches of skin on the legs result from certain lifestyle behaviors. Using harsh soaps or shaving creams and taking long or very hot showers might cause patches of dry skin on the legs. Exposure to the sun, especially without sunscreen, might also cause dry patches of skin on the legs. In addition, the Mayo Clinic website explains that people with health conditions such as thyroid disorders or psoriasis might also develop dry patches of skin on the legs.
For mild cases of dry skin patches on the legs, doctors might recommend using an over-the-counter lotion containing lactic acid or urea. If the dry patches are also itchy, hydrocortisone creams might reduce the itchiness. According to the University of Iowa website, doctors might prescribe steroid creams for severe cases of dry skin on the legs. If the skin has cracks, doctors might recommend applying an antiseptic and dressing the skin wounds to prevent infections.
Taking shorter showers with warm rather than hot water and liberally applying moisturizers after bathing can help reduce or prevent patches of dry skin on the legs. In addition, rather than roughly drying the legs with a towel after showering, gently pat them dry and allow them to remain a little damp to increase the skin's moisture. Consider using a humidifier in the home, especially during the winter months. The Mayo Clinic website suggests wearing soft, natural fabrics such as cotton rather than potentially irritating fabrics such as wool or polyester to help prevent inflammation and itching.
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