Asteatotic eczema, also known as xerosis and eczema craquele, is a condition where the mucus membranes of the skin become abnormally dry. It primarily affects the skin of the legs and arms, though it has also been reported to have appeared on the trunk and hands in some cases. The most common symptoms are itchy, dry, red, and scaly skin. There may also be small cracks in the affected areas.
Due to reduced production from the sweat and sebaceous glands over time, the elderly tend to have drier skin. For this reason, it is the age group most likely to get asteatotic eczema. The condition is particularly common among men in their sixties. Though the median overall age for individuals with asteatotic eczema is 69, younger patients have had the condition.
Environment, diet, medications, cleaning products, and irritating fabrics such as wool may cause or contribute to asteatotic eczema. Cold weather can increase the risk of getting the condition due to the loss of humidity in heated indoor spaces. The use of degreasing products such as cleansers and solvents can also cause irritation that can lead to an outbreak. A deficiency in zinc, linolenic acid, or essential fatty acids may also be a cause. Drugs for diuretic and anitiandrogen therapy can contribute to the problem.
There are several medical conditions that can lead to asteatotic eczema. These include breast cancer, malignant lymphoma, colorectal carcinoma, and large-cell lung carcinoma. Conditions that reduce sweating, such as thyroid disease and some neurological disorders, can also cause asteatotic eczema. There have been some cases where radiation played a part in the development of the condition.
Mild cases of asteatotic eczema can usually be treated with specially prescribed moisturizers. These medications typically use lactic acid and urea to cure the condition. An effective method of application is to bathe and then apply the moisturizer to damp skin. Patients are also often advised to avoid using soap in the affected area. Severe cases, which can include extreme itch and inflammation, may require the application of topical steroids.
The best way to avoid getting asteatotic eczema is to limit exposure to water, avoid bathing in water that is excessively warm, and choose mild skin cleaning products without fragrances or dyes. Use of a humidifier, particularly during cold weather, can increase moisture in the air and reduce the chance of an outbreak or recurrence of the condition. Avoiding dryness by hydrating properly and using petrolatum-based moisturizers can also help to keep skin healthy.