Cracked, Peeling & Itchy Skin After a Cast

Broken arm in cast
Someone holding their casted arm. (Image: Lowryn/iStock/Getty Images)

Depending on the severity of a break, a cast can remain over your skin for up to 10 weeks. A cast protects your skin from damage of sun exposure and other environmental concerns that could cause problems with the bone; however, temporary skin discomforts can occur once the cast is removed.

Identification

It is normal for your skin to itch after removing a cast, but severe itching could signify a larger problem. If your skin is so itchy or painful that you cannot sleep or carry out daily activity, contact your doctor as soon as possible. Any time your skin is dry and cracked, you increase your risk of cellulitis, which can be life-threatening if untreated. The symptoms of cellulitis include redness, pain and tenderness.

Once your cast comes off, your skin will appear dry and scaly. The top layer of the skin might peel and itch. New skin underneath the dead skin might be tender and sensitive.

Causes

Under your cast, dry, dead skin cells have remained on the top layer of the epidermis instead of being sloughed away as they normally would during your basic hygiene routines. These dead cells accumulate during the time your cast remains in place. Removing the case exposes dead skin cells, which might have a scaly appearance and cause itching.

Sweat leaves moisture under the cast, creating an ideal environment for a bacterial or fungal infection. Signs of infection include pain, redness, swelling or drainage. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience these symptoms.

Treatment

Wash the skin daily with a mild fragrance-free soap. Soak the skin in warm water for 20 minutes per day, then gently rub the area to slough away dead skin cells. You can relieve the dryness following cast removal with a fragrance-free non-alcohol lotion. If the area has a bacterial or fungal infection, your doctor will prescribe an oral or topical treatment.

Prevention

Although you can't keep dry skin cells from building up under your cast, you can prevent further irritation of the area once the cast is removed. Avoid rubbing, itching, and scrubbing the areas of discomfort. Avoid peeling and picking the skin. You also should avoid shaving for at least three days after case removal.

Warning

Seek immediate medical attention if you have open areas on your skin after cast removal, or have increased pain, redness or swelling.

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