Tests and diagnosisBy Mayo Clinic staff
Physical exam and medical history
Your doctor is likely to conduct a thorough physical exam and to ask questions 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.
You may have certain diagnostic tests if your doctor suspects that your dry skin is the result of an underlying medical condition, such as hypothyroidism.
Through examination and tests, your doctor may determine that your dry skin is, in fact, a sign of another skin condition. Related dry skin conditions include:
- Keratosis pilaris. Keratosis pilaris causes small, acne-like bumps, which usually appear on the upper arms, legs or buttocks; they usually don't hurt or itch. The bumps create rough patches and give skin a goose-flesh or sandpaper appearance. Typically, patches are skin colored, but they can, at times, be red and inflamed.
- Ichthyosis vulgaris. Sometimes also called fish-scale disease or fishskin disease, ichthyosis vulgaris develops when skin cells fail to shed normally and instead accumulate in thick, dry scales. The scales are small, polygonal in shape and range in color from white to brown. Ichthyosis vulgaris may also cause scalp flaking and deep, painful fissures on your palms and soles.
- Asteatotic eczema (eczema craquele). This condition causes dry, scaly, deeply fissured skin that some doctors have described as resembling cracked porcelain or a dry riverbed. The affected skin may become inflamed, itchy and may bleed.
- Psoriasis. A frustrating and sometimes disfiguring skin condition, psoriasis can be confused with dry skin conditions at times. This is because it's marked by reddened skin with dry, silvery scales that sometimes resemble dandruff. It is not caused by dry skin, but can result in areas of red, dry skin developing in certain areas. In severe cases, your skin may crack, bleed and form pus-filled blisters. Psoriasis is a persistent, chronic disease that tends to flare periodically, and although it may go into remission, it usually remains active for years.
- Dry skin and keratosis pilaris. American Academy of Dermatology. http://www.aad.org/public/publications/pamphlets/skin_dry.html. Accessed Oct. 5, 2010.
- Fazio SB, et al. Pruritus. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Oct. 5, 2010.
- Baumann L. Cosmetics and skin care in dermatology. In: Wolff K, et al. Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 7th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2008. http://accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=3007166&searchStr=xerosis. Accessed Oct. 5, 2010.
- Gibson LE (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Oct. 14, 2010.