Decreasing hormone levels often cause dry skin in women during and after menopause. Dry skin can lead to skin irritation and inflammation, which is a common problem among post-menopausal women. Dyshidrotic eczema, a skin condition characterized by dry, red and itchy skin, often affects the hands but can also affect other areas. If over-the-counter moisturizers don't help, see your doctor for treatment.
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Hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone can affect your skin. Adolescents find their skin becoming more oily and pimple-prone for this reason. The opposite occurs during menopause. Hormone levels drop and skin becomes drier and more prone to irritation, inflammation, itching and redness. Many cleaning products and other chemicals dry the skin out even more. Working as a baker, hairstylist, mechanic or in a profession requiring frequent hand washing increases your exposure to harsh chemicals that can worsen this condition. Over-the-counter moisturizers can also worsen dryness if they contain alcohol, which many do.
Lack of moisture in dyshidrotic eczema doesn't mean that your skin isn't getting enough water. What happens is that the water is not sealed inside the skin because the skin has lost its natural barrier protection. Your skin has a natural “lamination” made of lipids, or fats. Hormonal changes and chemical irritants can destroy the integrity of the skin, rendering it dry. Your skin can blister painfully from intense inflammation.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Your doctor can diagnose dyshidrotic eczema without any testing just by looking at your skin. To help replace lost moisture, use gentle soaps and over-the-counter moisturizers without alcohol. Limit your exposure to harsh chemicals as much as possible and minimize water contact. Apply a good moisturizer right after contact with any drying agents. If these measures don't help, see your doctor. Anti-inflammatory creams can help quell inflammation and redness. In severe cases, you might need hormone replacement therapy to raise hormone levels.