Ask the Doctor: How can I get better skin?

I seem to have abnormally dry skin. This has been an issue for as long as I can remember. I have tried all sorts of lotions and moisturizers but nothing seems to work. Recently, I even started getting strange looking white patches on my arm. They disappear for sometime after I use lotion but the moment I step out of the house, they are back. Is this some sort of skin disorder? I only wear trousers and long sleeved shirts because I want to hide as much skin as possible. It just seems to be getting worse. Is there something you can recommend? Please help.

I seem to have abnormally dry skin. This has been an issue for as long as I can remember. I have tried all sorts of lotions and moisturizers but nothing seems to work.

Recently, I even started getting strange looking white patches on my arm. They disappear for sometime after I use lotion but the moment I step out of the house, they are back. Is this some sort of skin disorder?

I only wear trousers and long sleeved shirts because I want to hide as much skin as possible. It just seems to be getting worse. Is there something you can recommend? Please help.

Shiela, Kicukiro

Dear Shiela,

Excess dryness of the skin can be due to multiple reasons. Exposure to the sun for long hours, exposure to extreme cold or hot weather, use of hot water for bathing, soaps, aging, all this can deplete moisture of the skin and causes dryness. 

Deficiency of vitamin B complex in the body can also cause dry skin. Dry skin is also a manifestation of hormonal disorders like hypothyroidism, diabetes mellitus. Malnutrition in general has dry skin as one of the manifestations.

Genetic factors also influence the texture of one’s skin. Whatever the reason for dryness, it is a cause for much discomfort. One tends to feel itchy all the time due to the dryness. There is also a risk of cracking of skin due to dryness, particularly over the lips and heels. One is susceptible to get bacterial infections due to the dryness and cracking. In your case as it is for a long time, dryness of the skin could be due to genetic factors. 

Regarding the white patches on your arms, do they itch?  Are they diffuse or well circumscribed? Are they increasing in size? If so, it can be due to fungal infection. Psoriasis can also cause whitish patches, they are itchy and more on the backside of arms. Allergy to some cosmetic product being used can also cause it.

Use of corticoid containing cream or lotion for a long time can also lead to white patches on the skin. They can also occur due to depletion of melanin pigment which can be inherited if somebody else has leucoderma in the family. 

It is better if you undergo necessary tests to exclude treatable causes for dryness like diabetes and hypothyroidism. Drink adequate amount of water as adequate hydration reduces dryness.  Take a balanced diet including fresh fruits and vegetables.

Avoid using soap on the body. Natural herbal products can be used for cleaning the body as an alternative. Turmeric, gram flour or Basil (UMWNYA) leaves; e.t.c. can be used in paste form for this purpose.  Instead of creams containing chemicals, natural products like natural glycerine, olive oil, petroleum jelly, tree tea oil, e.t.c. should be used for moisturising the skin.  Even honey is a good substance for cleaning and moisturising skin. Any one of these products can be used three to four times a day.

Try using an anti allergy medication like polaramine, cetrizine, e.t.c. for a few days. The white patches, if due to allergy, should improve. If not, consult a dermatologist to know the cause and necessary treatment.

Dr. Rachna Pande is a specialist in Internal Medicine at Ruhengeri Hospital.

 

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