All the organs of the human body are equally important for the proper functioning of the overall system. Usually whenever, the term human organ is used, internal organs such as intestine, liver, kidney and so on are taken into consideration. However, mostly the longest covering and protective organ of all-the skin rarely comes to the mind and is just taken for granted.
It regulates the body temperature, protects the body from external pathogens, stores water and lipids in the tissues and absorbs oxygen. Like all the other organs skin too is associated with several important body functions and accordingly is also susceptible to infections and diseases. Cracking and drying of the skin is an indication that there is something wrong within the body. Several reasons lead to drying or cracking of the skin. One such condition is Xerosis.
The complete term for this condition is Xerosis cutis in which the skin loses its suppleness and tightness and becomes dry showing cracks. In clinical terminology, Xero means dehydrated (dry) and osis is a medical disorder. This condition can be caused due to innumerable factors. The most important mode of treatment is getting rid of dryness of the skin so that the cracks heal and the skin looks healthy and supple.
Causes of Xerosis
As discussed earlier, Xerosis is caused when the skin becomes dry. Water reduction in a significant amount from the upper layer-epidermis of the skin tissue leads to dehydration. Several reasons can lead to Xerosis including:
- Irritant Contact Dermatitis
- Atopic Dermatitis
- Ichtyosis (genetic skin disorder)
- Neurological disorders
- Renal diseases
- Sjogren’s syndrome
- Obstructive billary diseases
- Severe zinc, essential fatty acids or vitamin A deficiency
Progress of Xerosis
The condition of Xerosis progresses slowly and indicates several signs of dryness and dehydration of the skin before finally progressing into this particular skin disorder.
Some of the medical conditions that can accelerate the progress of Xerosis include:
- Redness of the skin is the first common symptom that indicates the onset of Xerosis.
- Slowly the skin starts developing cracks that look like those caused due to eczema craquelle.
- This is a clear indication that the skin is not getting enough moisture and the water content of the upper epidermis tissue layer has almost dried up.
- In the absence of proper treatment, these cracks slowly open up, widen and highlight the different skin lines causing the formation of deep fissures.
- In case the fissures become too deep and reach the capillaries of the epidermis, blood starts coming out of them forming a wound.
- These open wounds lead to a very serious skin condition –pruritus that also causes a lot of itching and discomfort.
- Open wounds when left unheeded are more prone to septic and infections.
Other Factors Influencing the Progress of Xerosis Include:
Apart from medical factors, several other conditions also can lead to progress of Xerosis such as:
- Scaly or dehydrated skin can also be caused due to environmental conditions such as cold weather, over exposure to harmful UV rays, pollution and more.
- Although personal hygiene is very important, bathing with extremely hot water or using scrubby and hard soap several times in a day can lead to skin dryness and ultimately to Xerosis.
- According to health experts, every time you wash your skin, its upper protective lipid layer washes off due to which the skin loses its moisture.
- That is why, it is very important to replenish the moisture loss by using moisturizing cream or lotion after the bath.
Treating Xerosis Cutis
Since this skin disorder is caused due to dehydration of epidermis, the first mode of action should include measures to restore the balance of water and oil in the skin. Here are some of the tips that can help in treating Xerosis:
- Use only lukewarm water for bathing and preferably only moisturizing soaps or body wash.
- Bathe only once a day
- Use moisturizers containing essential oils such as jojoba oil, vitamin E oil, almond oil or olive oil.
- During winter or after the swim use oil-based soap for bathing
- To treat the dry skin area, use moisturizers such as Neostrata 15 AHA Body Lotions or alpha hydroxyacid lotions.
- Include food rich in zinc in your daily diet. You can take zinc supplements for some time under the supervision of your caregiver.
Regular exercise, eating well balanced diet and drinking lots of water can further help treat Xerosis cutis more effectively.