What is scaly skin?

Scaly skin is a common symptom of dry skin and can occur anywhere on the body, although it is most common on the lower legs, arms and thighs. Irritation, inflammation and itching increase the rate of skin cell turnover, leading to scale formation. While scaly skin can be caused by a variety of conditions, most scaly skin will result from natural processes or environments, such as normal aging or cold, dry environments.

Scaly skin is also seen with inflammatory conditions of the skin (dermatitis), such as seborrheic dermatitis or dandruff. This condition, known as cradle cap in infants, produces white or yellowish scales and flaking of the scalp skin.

Atopic dermatitis is a form of skin inflammation that tends to run in families and is often seen in people with allergies, although the condition itself is most often not related to allergy. Eczema is a term that describes chronic, nonallergic skin inflammation that can produce scaly rashes that itch. Contact dermatitis is caused by contact either with an allergy-provoking substance or an irritant. Fungal and bacterial infections of the skin can also produce a rash that may be characterized by scaly skin.

Psoriasis is a chronic condition characterized by irritated areas on your skin that appear reddened, thickened, and may be scaly. There are different types of psoriasis, and it can affect all parts of the skin.

If your scaly skin is persistent or causes you concern, seek prompt medical care. You should also seek prompt medical care for scaly skin that is accompanied by signs of infection, such as fever; warmth, redness or swelling; or enlargement of lymph nodes. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms accompanying scaly skin, such as enlargement of lymph nodes or high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit), as these could be signs of a life-threatening condition.


What other symptoms might occur with scaly skin?

Scaly skin may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.

Typical symptoms that may occur along with scaly skin

Scaly skin may accompany other symptoms related to dry skin including:

  • Development of cracks in the skin
  • Increased redness of skin
  • Itching feeling
  • Read more about scaly skinsymptoms


What causes scaly skin?

Scaly skin can be caused by a variety of natural processes or environments, as well as certain washing habits. You may be able to avoid or reduce scaly skin by simple changes in your lifestyle and environment. Some of these steps include drinking plenty of water, choosing gentle soaps, applying moisturizers frequently, using a humidifier, especially with indoor heating in the winter, and keepin... Read more about scaly skincauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 20, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Skin, Hair and Nails

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