ZocdocAnswersWhy is my skin so dry, itchy and blotchy?

Question

Why is my skin so dry, itchy and blotchy?

I'm a 22 year old college student, and the skin on my hands and on my neck has become very dry, itchy and blotchy for the past few weeks. I continually moisturize the affected areas with lotion and put a thin layer of petroleum jelly but it doesn't seem to be an effective long term solution. What type of specialized doctor should I see about my skin issue? I'm not taking any medications.

Answer

There are many causes of dry and itchy skin, but the most common type that occurs on the hands and folded skin (neck, elbows, knees, etc.) in adults is eczema. Eczema is a combination of dry and sensitive skin, which is often worst in the winter or when skin is exposed to new products. To treat your dry and itchy skin, ensure that the moisturizer you use is thick and hypoallergenic. It should come in a tub (not in a squirt bottle) and should not move when you shake the bottle. Dry skin loses a lot of moisture when it is wet, so try to minimize time of exposure and warmth of water during showers, dishwashing, and other tasks. Many people with eczema wear gloves while doing dishes and housework. After water exposure, pat your skin dry (rubbing causes small microtears that lead to irritation) and apply cream within three minutes. Ensure that your soaps, detergents, and other cleaning supplies are hypoallergenic. If your symptoms worsen or fail to improve, it is important to see a general primary care doctor who can evaluate and treat you for less common causes of dry skin and consider referring you to a dermatologist if necessary.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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