Dry Red Hands
Dry skin, which dermatologists may refer to as "xerosis," commonly affects the hands. The itching and scratching it provokes can also induce skin redness. Additional symptoms may include a feeling of skin tightness, especially after your hands have been in water; skin roughness, flaking or peeling; fine lines and cracks in the skin; and deep skin fissures that may bleed, the Mayo Clinic says.
Causes of Dryness
The skin on your hands may suffer from dryness any time of the year, but the winter season presents special challenges. Heated indoor air, low humidity and frigid outdoor temperatures all help rob your skin of moisture. Other causes of dry hands include exposure to cleaning chemicals, dishwashing and the normal process of aging skin.
Causes of Redness
Dry skin on the hands can cause itching, setting up an itch-and-scratch cycle that leaves the hands red and inflamed. In serious cases, the skin may even break and bleed. When this itchy inflammation is chronic, it's called eczema or dermatitis. The causes of eczema are unknown, and both genetic and environmental factors may play a role in its development. Triggers may include environmental or food allergens, extremes in temperature and elevated stress levels, says the website Eczema Guide.
Water alone -- particularly hot water -- worsens dryness. Use a mild soap or soap substitute for washing your hands, pat them dry gently, and always follow exposure to water with the application of a moisturizing cream or ointment. Reapply moisturizer to your hands liberally throughout the day. The National Eczema Association website recommends a greasy product such as petroleum jelly to hold moisture in and keep irritants away from the skin of the hands. Check moisturizing products for the ingredients urea and lactic acid, which help the skin absorb moisture. Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands when using cleaning fluids or washing dishes, and protect your hands with gloves when outdoors during cold and windy weather.
Medication for Itching
Extra moisturization may be all that's required to relieve your skin dryness and itching. If after this you still suffer from itching, suggests you use a 1 percent hydrocortisone cream for a week. Your doctor may prescribe a stronger cream or antihistamine pills. Hydrocortisone creams can cause thinning of the skin and other problems, so follow your doctor's orders on the use of any medication.
Dry skin is more vulnerable to infection. If your skin is red, warm and swollen, seek medical treatment promptly. You may require an antibiotic to fight infection. Medical conditions such as psoriasis and thyroid disorders can also be responsible for dry or red skin, and require a doctor's treatment.
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