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Xeroderma

(Xerosis)

By

James G. H. Dinulos

, MD, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth

Last full review/revision Jan 2020| Content last modified Jan 2020
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Xeroderma is dry skin that is neither inherited nor associated with systemic abnormalities.

Xeroderma results from delayed shedding of the superficial cells of the skin, yielding fine white scale. Risk factors for xerosis include the following:

  • Residence in a dry, cold climate

  • Older age

  • Frequent bathing, particularly if using harsh soaps

Severe dry skin on the hands may become inflamed, leading to hand dermatitis (hand eczema).

Diagnosis of xeroderma is based on clinical evaluation.

Treatment

  • Maximization of skin moisture

Treatment of xeroderma is focused on keeping the skin moist:

  • Frequency of bathing should decrease and tepid, rather than hot, water should be used.

  • Skin moisturizers should be used frequently, particularly immediately after bathing, to decrease transepidermal water loss. Thicker moisturizers such as petrolatum- or oil-based moisturizers are more effective than water-based lotions, although water-based lotions may be better tolerated in warmer climates. Moisturizers with additives such as ceramides, alpha-glycolic acids (eg, lactic, glycolic, and pyruvic acids), and beta-glycolic acids (eg, salicylic acid) are very commonly used.

  • Increasing fluid intake and using humidifiers also help.

Patients who develop hand dermatitis sometimes require topical corticosteroids to decrease inflammation and maintain the skin barrier.

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