Medications that cause dry skin
“Diuretics can definitely dry your skin,” says Robin Evans, MD, a dermatologist in Stamford, Connecticut. “These medications are used to treat high blood pressure, cardiac conditions, and liver and other problems that cause fluid to accumulate in the body.”
Diuretics work by helping rid your body of salt and water. These drugs help your kidneys release more sodium into your urine. The sodium carries out water from your blood, which decreases the amount of fluid flowing through your blood vessels. This brings down your blood pressure, but it also dehydrates your body. Any time your body is short on water, that results in dry skin.
“A popular type of high cholesterol medicine called a statin can cause skin changes including dry skin,” says Nonye Uddoh, Pharm.D., a pharmacist in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Statins can make your skin more porous, allowing more water to escape, which in turn dries your skin. In some severe cases, statins have been known to cause a dry skin rash and flaky skin that mimics eczema. Some examples of statins include Lipitor (atorvastatin), Zocor (simvastatin), Lescol (fluvastatin), Pravachol (pravastatin), and Crestor (rosuvastatin), and Mevacor or Altocor (lovastatin).
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The Prevalence of Xerosis
Virtually everyone will experience xerosis at some time or other, and most either ignore it or self-treat.1 Surveys conducted in nursing homes and long-term care residences indicate a prevalence of 30% to 75%.2,3
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Your doctor is likely to conduct a physical exam and ask about your medical history, including when your dry skin started, what factors make it better or worse, your bathing habits, your diet, and how you care for your skin.
Your doctor may suggest certain diagnostic tests to check whether your dry skin is the result of an underlying medical condition, such as an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).
In most cases, dry skin responds well to lifestyle measures, such as using moisturizers and avoiding long, hot showers and baths. If you have very dry and scaly skin, your doctor may recommend you use an over-the-counter (nonprescription) cream that contains lactic acid or lactic acid and urea.
If you have a more serious skin disease, such as atopic dermatitis, ichthyosis or psoriasis, your doctor may prescribe prescription creams and ointments or other treatments in addition to home care.
Sometimes dry skin leads to dermatitis, which causes red, itchy skin. In these cases, treatment may include hydrocortisone-containing lotions. If your skin cracks open, your doctor may prescribe wet dressings to help prevent infection.