Relief for Severely Dry, Cracked Hands
While most dry skin is the result of lifestyle choices related to diet, cleansing routines and sun exposure, severely dry, cracked hands could indicate a more serious condition, warn doctors at the Mayo Clinic. Prior to seeking relief for the discomfort yourself, get a diagnosis from a doctor to rule out any other conditions that may require more extensive medical treatment.
Some of the more common medical conditions that can cause dry, cracked skin include psoriasis, a persistent chronic disease, and eczema, a skin disease that causes skin to crack like fine porcelain. Ichthyosis vulgaris, sometimes referred to as fish scale disease, causes the skin to accumulate in patches of dry scaling skin instead of shedding normally. The disease can cause painful cracks on the palms of your hands. Prescription creams usually are required to get relief from medical causes of severely dry hands.
Mayo Clinic doctors report that most cases of severe, dry, cracked hands respond well to home remedies and lifestyle changes. Long hot showers and baths are culprits that should be avoided to help soften the skin and get relief. Hot water causes dry skin. Lathering moisturizer regularly on severely dry skin also can help. Mayo Clinic doctors recommend over-the-counter creams that contain urea and lactic acid.
Dry skin left untreated can lead to dermatitis, a condition that causes red, patchy skin and is very uncomfortable. A wet dressing soaked in mild astringent often is used to contract the skin after a dermatitis attack to close up the cracks that have developed on the hands. Dressings are used to cover the cracks until they heal to prevent infection from getting in the open sores. A doctor may prescribe lotion that contains hydrocortisone to provide relief and aid in healing.
There are steps you can take to prevent dry cracked hands, especially in the winter, when dry heat tends to make skin even drier. An indoor humidifier can infuse the air with moisture and help relieve the pain of dry, cracked hands. Mild soaps that contain oils, such as Neutrogena or Dove, also can help to keep the cracked hands clean while not contributing to the dryness like harsh soaps and chemicals can.
Doctors at the University of Iowa report that the most effective relief for severely dry, cracked hands is petroleum jelly. Most people won't use the treatment because it is so greasy and messy, but even in small amounts rubbed directly into the hands, Vaseline can provide the greatest amount of relief for dry skin. Even household products such as Crisco shortening can provide instant relief when rubbed into the hands.
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