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Dry Skin Overview

Dry Skin Patches

Dry skin is often nothing more than a temporary inconvenience -- it's irritating and itchy, but if you treat it properly, it goes away. But if your dry skin doesn't go away, you may be dealing with something a little more serious -- especially if you start to develop patches of dry skin. These rough, raised patches of flaky skin can itch to the point they feel like they're burning, and they're usually a symptom of a more serious skin condition like eczema or psoriasis [source: Stöppler].

The exact cause of eczema is unknown, but it's thought to be caused by an overactive response by the body's immune system to unidentified triggers. There are several types of eczema, but the most common is atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis affects 9 to 30 percent of the U.S. population, and it can be inherited [source: WebMD]. The most obvious symptoms are extreme itching and dry, reddened skin. It can be difficult to resist scratching the skin, but doing so will often cause the skin to become thick and crusty. If you think you may have eczema, consult a doctor to discuss treatment options [source: Stöppler].

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder -- the immune system malfunctions and causes the body to produce excess skin cells. It's a chronic condition in which the skin cells build up rapidly on the skin, forming silvery scales and itchy red patches. Like eczema, no one knows exactly what causes this to happen, but stress and certain medications can trigger episodes [source: WebMD]. Millions of Americans are affected by psoriasis, and while there's no cure, there are treatments that can help you control it [source: National Psoriasis Foundation]. If you develop dry skin patches that won't go away by moisturizing, consult your doctor.

Keep reading to learn why dry skin itches so badly.