Skin Rashes & Zinc

Itchiness
Zinc can soothe contact dermatitis, such as poison oak. (Image: abdone/iStock/Getty Images)

Skin rashes and zinc are intimately connected. In some cases skin rashes such as pityriasis rosea and contact dermatitis can be healed with products containing zinc; in other cases, zinc may actually cause skin rashes to develop. The body requires zinc to uphold the integrity of the skin and the mucus membranes, according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Zinc deficiencies often manifest in skin problems such as rashes and inflammation, and too much zinc can have the same effect.

Pityriasis Rosea

Pityriasis rosea is a skin rash characterized by small lesions that develop on the trunk and sometimes the arms and legs. In about 25 per cent of cases, pityriasis rosea causes extreme itching; otherwise the condition remains asymptomatic. Pityriasis rosea affects males and females equally, and appears to target children, teens and young adults, according to Daniel L. Stulberg, M.D. of the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center. Zinc oxide is regularly prescribed and often clears up pityriasis rosea within five to eight weeks.

Zinc Deficiency

A zinc deficiency may cause acrodermatitis enteropathica, a skin rash that develops around the orifices such as the mouth, eyes and anus. Zinc deficiency may result from inadequate zinc in the diet, inflammatory bowel disease or intestinal bypass surgery. Zinc supplementation typically clears up acrodermatitis enteropathica within two weeks, according to Dr. Amanda Oakley of the New Zealand Dermatological Society.

Zinc Poisoning

Zinc poisoning may occur due to overexposure to the zinc found in wood preservatives, dyes, supplements, rubber or rust coatings. Zinc poisoning can cause skin rash, as well as chills, convulsions, fever, shortness of breath, shock and bloody diarrhea. Treatment typically involves gastric lavage to flush the zinc out of the stomach.

Atopic Dermatitis

Zinc often helps soothe the dry, itchy rash associated with atopic dermatitis, or eczema as it is most commonly known. Atopic dermatitis tends to affect women more than men and hereditary is the greatest risk factor for developing the condition. Zinc oxide is often proscribed by dermatologists to treat the inflammation associated with atopic dermatitis.

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