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The Principles Of Moisturizing Your Skin

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When I was in medical school on my dermatology rotation, we joked that all skin treatments boil down to three decrees: If it’s wet, dry it. If it’s dry, wet it. And if in doubt, use steroids.

Some other time I’ll discuss the “drying” of skin, or the use of steroids (which are not, by the way, the kind of steroids taken illegally by athletes!) Today I’ll cover how to keep the skin “wet” – and some principles of moisturizing.

Skin is our first line of defense against disease. Bacteria, viruses, parasites – dangers lurk everywhere. But our epidermis (the outer layer of our skin) blocks them almost always. When people have inflamed skin, the epidermis becomes disrupted and infectious particles can enter their body.

The key to keeping the epidermis intact is keeping it moist. Now, I’m talking about moisture just below the surface of the skin (within the epidermis), so the outside surface doesn’t feel wet. There are molecules within the epidermis that Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Making Sense of Medicine*

The Burning, Itching, And Swelling Of Stinging Nettles: Removing Them From The Skin

Stinging nettle plants, courtesy of Dezidor (CC BY 3.0)

Stinging nettle plants, courtesy of Dezidor (CC BY 3.0)

Hikers often brush up against injurious plants, such as poison oak or thorny shrubs. One particularly vexing plant is the “ubiquitous weed, Urtica dioica,” commonly known as stinging nettles. As described in an article entitled “Mechanism of Action of Stinging Nettles” (Wilderness & Environmental Medicine:22,136-139,2011) by Alexander Cummings and Michael Olsen, direct contact exposure to the weed causes immediate stinging and burning sensation on the skin. The authors exposed mouse skin to the plants and looked at this skin using an electron microscope. They found smooth nettle spicules that had pierced the skin surface, a few of which retained their bases, which appeared empty of liquid contents. The authors concluded that the mechanism of action of stinging nettles skin reaction was both biochemical and mechanical, likely caused by impalement of spicules into the skin.

The spicules are present as small “hairs” that are found on the stem and undersides of the leaves of the plant. Even light touch against the plant can cause a reaction, which is often characterized as Read more »

This post, The Burning, Itching, And Swelling Of Stinging Nettles: Removing Them From The Skin, was originally published on Healthine.com by Paul Auerbach, M.D..

Is A Compressed Spinal Nerve Causing Itchy Arms?

Medical science is getting closer to understanding one of the most common causes of chronically itchy arms called brachioradial pruritus.

This means we’re also getting closer to helping people who suffer from this extremely frustrating condition!

A new study exploring the cause of brachioradial pruritus was just reported in the October issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.  The authors used MRI imaging to look at the cervical spine of 41 patients suffering from chronic itching of what was otherwise normal appearing skin on the outer surface of their forearms arms (called brachioradial pruritus).  MRI imaging showed a very strong correlation between the itch and nerve compression in the patient’s neck. In fact, the exact site of the itch on the skin correlated precisely with the spinal location in the neck where the nerve resides that supplies that part of the arm skin (we call this a dermatome*).

What’s so interesting is that Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Bailey's Skin Care Blog*

Could Your Swimming Pool Give You A Rash?

Allergic to Swimming? We’re in the dog days of August and summer continues to hold on. What better way is there to relax than in your nice, cool pool? Unless you’re allergic to it, of course.

I had a patient this summer who developed an itchy rash all over. He thought it might be due to his pool, but insisted that he kept it immaculately clean. Ironically, that might have been the trouble.

Some people are allergic to Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Dermatology Blog*

Aesthetic Surgery Journal Examines Nonablative Treatment Of Stretch Marks

Stretch marks (striae distensae) are common.  They represent linear dermal scars accompanied by epidermal atrophy.  Stretch marks aren’t a significant medical problem, but can be a source of significant emotional distress.

There are many treatments available, ranging from therapy applied to the skin, laser therapy, and even more invasive surgical methods. Unfortunately, stretch marks remain a tricky problem to target, in which no established treatment exists.

A recent article in the  May issue of the Aesthetic Surgery Journal (full reference below) discusses the use of fractional nonablative laser treatment for stretch marks.

Dr. Francesca de Angelis and colleagues conducted a clinical study involving 51 patients with striae, three male and 48 female,  who were treated between May 2007 to May 2008.  Several patients had striae on multiple areas of the body so a total of 79 striae locations were treated.

Patient ages ranged from 13 to 56 years (mean, 33 years). Fitzpatrick skin type ranged from II to IV. The duration of striae ranged from one to 40 years, with an average duration of 12 years. The striae formed as a result of pubertal growth (41%, n = 21), pregnancy (31%, n = 16), weight change (20%, n = 10), muscular atrophy (2%, n = one ), or unknown causes (6%, n = three).

Anatomical locations for treatment included the hips, breasts, abdomen, flanks, knees, buttocks, arms, thighs, and shoulders, with the majority of treatments occurring on the first three sites.

The stated objective of this study was to determine Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Suture for a Living*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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