Irritated, Winter Skin: Is It A Rash or Something Else?
As weather conditions change, people with sensitive skin may start developing instances of itchy skin. Outside of winter skin irritations, itchy skin is usually caused by a lack of moisture. In the summer, the air is humid, alleviating the need for heavy moisture. In the winter, most people start seeing common signs of dry, itchy, and scaly skin as the environment becomes colder and drier.
There are other skin conditions that can cause dry and itchy skin or a skin rash. While it may be a simple rash, the symptoms could indicate the presence of eczema or psoriasis.
What is Eczema?
Eczema is a skin condition that causes dry, itchy, and inflamed skin. Individuals with eczema (also called atopic dermatitis) can be caused by genetics or other triggers like stress. It has a rash-like appearance that can cause the skin to become inflamed and discolored, create rough patches of skin that feel leathery, scaly skin, skin patches that are crusty or oozing, and swelling in those areas. There are a couple types of eczema to be considered.
Intrinsic eczema develops through the immune system and is the most common. This type of eczema can start from birth, causing babies discomfort and red, itchy skin. Individuals with intrinsic eczema are usually present throughout childhood with symptoms getting better with age. According to Dr. Barrick of Akron DSC, “Intrinsic eczema looks like dry, flaky skin that affects the creases of the elbows and back of the legs. The most common symptom is itching of the skin.”
Asteatotic eczema, another type, is very common during the winter. This leaves the sky really dry, itchy and cracked. You may find more elderly people with this type of eczema. People who are in low humidity areas, or individuals who use a lot of soaps and detergents, or excessively bathe are prone to this type of eczema.
Although it is common for eczema to get better with age, there are instances where this is not the case. “We skip about 20 to 30 years and don’t have a lot of problems and then boom, we hit our fifties or sixties and it starts to come back, or they develop new-onset intrinsic eczema,” says Dr. Barrick. Seeking dermatology assistance can help.
Eczema varies from person to person and can develop in adulthood even if it were not present as a child. Lessening triggers that cause stress, implementing a daily bath and moisture routine, and using any prescribed medication on a consistent basis can help in alleviating the problem.
What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is part of a larger problem and is not just a skin condition. A common, chronic disease, it goes through a period of cycles where it starts to flare up and then subsides for a while. There are several types of psoriasis that may affect people. According to Dr. Barrick, “This is a systemic medical problem that we have to treat aggressively.”
Symptoms of psoriasis vary, but the most common is red, thick, patchy, and scaly skin. Additional common symptoms include small, scaly spots; burning or soreness; thick, pitted, or ridged nails; and cracked skin that bleeds. Individuals with psoriasis do not itch as much as with eczema, but the rash associated with psoriasis is the main problem. “Psoriasis can also affect the joints and display some of the common symptoms of arthritis. Swelling and stiffness, usually in the morning in the joints of the hands, wrists, and shoulders are the most common places.
Individuals who have these symptoms with psoriasis should take it seriously because there could be permanent damage. The treatment is aggressive because there is an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, strokes, and heart attacks in these patients.”
What medications and treatments are used to treat psoriasis and eczema?
There are many types of moisturizers on the market to treat dry skin, but the moisturizing cream should have ceramide in it. Most people lack ceramides during the winter months. Ceramides help lock in moisture and work to prevent any damage from the environment. They also help soothe potential irritation that may result from dry skin. Cerave is a national, over-the-counter brand that has ceramides in its products.
Dr. Elise Craig, also of Akron DSC describes when patients should start seeking medical assistance. “If the moisturizer doesn’t keep the skin moisturized, I have patients see a physician,” says Dr. Craig. “A physician will prescribe something like a topical steroid to decrease the itching and help with the symptoms that drive patients to see a doctor.”
A dermatologist integrates something to help with inflammation and breaks down what soaps are being used while bathing and additional moisturizers. For eczema, there are a few different treatments. Topical steroids are common, but Dupixent is an injectable, biological medication reserved for severe cases that don’t work with topical ointments. Light therapy may also be used to suppress the immune system only in the skin.
Psoriasis treatments call for biologics. “We can basically manage psoriasis to a hundred percent clear at this time. In dermatology, we’ve never been able to do that,” says Dr. Craig.” These biologic injectables help suppress the pathway of psoriasis systemically to work for arthritis, the underlying cardiovascular disease, and cutaneous and skin psoriasis.”
Get In To See A Specialist
Itchy and irritated skin can prevent people from being able to sleep or function normally. Once they have seen the primary care physician, a dermatologist can focus on any underlying regimens and treatments to assist with a skin barrier to assist with the disease.It is important to seek medical attention if the situation becomes more pronounced or widespread while causing pain and discomfort. Additionally, these conditions can become so severe that the skin can take on a different appearance.
If this is the case, or home treatment methods are not working, it’s important to consult a physician or dermatologist immediately.Individuals who have a primary care physician can also call them for itchy skin to at least help them get started in the healing processes. Or, they can help facilitate getting into the dermatologist faster because winter is often the busiest time for dermatologists.
Taking care of your skin during the winter and addressing issues of dry skin and other related symptoms while they are not a major problem can make a difference. Working with a dermatologist can help pinpoint the problem and recommend a treatment plan that can work in the present and future.
For more information on the treatment of eczema and psoriasis, contact Akron Dermatology and Surgery Center, or visit akronmohs.com for a consultation today!