Small, dry patches on skin can be from rashes, injury (such as abrasions or chemical burns), or fungal infections. However, dry patches of skin may also be a sign of psoriasis, a fairly rare skin condition.
Psoriasis, like its more common, and severe cousin, eczema (characterized by redness, itching and oozing), is not a disease but a medical condition or disorder. It is not contagious. Psoriasis presents as thickened, scaly, ashy or greyish – white dry spots on skin. Although psoriasis can manifest anywhere on the body, there is generally a predictable pattern to it. It mostly can be found on the elbows, knees, at the hairline, on the chest, the back of the hands, and on the ankles. Curiously, the condition is not noted on the back of the body.
Only about 1% of the population has the condition, and although a single root cause is not known, heredity is believed to play a role. Furthermore, environmental conditions can cause psoriasis if the skin’s surface is irritated by chemical exposure or if the afflicted has a food allergy. Gluten psoriasis is a commonly recognized form of psoriasis caused by a person’s sensitivity to wheat gluten (found in breads) or glutens from other cereal grains. For this reason, many people follow a diet that helps prevent psoriasis.
Psoriasis is more a disorder of cosmetology. Generally, unlike eczema, it does not itch, burn, or cause an irritation. It is unsightly, however, and psoriasis patches tend to thicken and scale while growing atop a reddened patch of skin beneath. Psoriasis on the scalp produces flaky, dry patches of skin – hair continues to grow in the affected areas, though. About one-fourth of all psoriasis patients experiences pitting, ridging, and discoloration of their fingernails. There is also a form of arthritis that develops in some psoriasis sufferers which most often affects the lower spine and fingers.
Treatments are available to relieve some of the more unpleasant cosmetic issues. Sunlight (specifically ultraviolet radiation) helps “heal” the skin patches in most people, and a connection between sun exposure and incidence of psoriasis has been established (more psoriasis is seen in temperate climates than in tropical ones). Ointments containing salicylic acid or coal tar help slough the patches. More extreme skin patches may require creams containing corticosteroids to help remove them. Scalp patches are treated with medicated shampoos; over-the-counter types generally work well, though a more extreme psoriasis scalp treatment may require prescription-strength scalp solutions.
As with any disease or disorder, observable small, dry patches on skin can be one of many things. It is imperative to see a family doctor or dermatologist before deciding to follow any treatment plan. By Bob Parker