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Peeling Skin – 13 Possible Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & When To See The Doctor

Peeling Skin

Peeling skin, or desquamation, is a very common problem, and it results in the shedding of the epidermis (outer layer of skin). Healing from damage to the skin, such as that caused by burns or exposure to environmental irritants such as the sun or wind, is commonly linked to it. Internal problems or diseases, such as a rash’s healing phase, may also lead to skin peeling.

The process of skin cell loss and the replacement of old skin cells with new skin cells is a natural, continual process, as the body makes new skin cells and rids the outer layer of skin cells that have died. It is neither obvious nor unusual when skin cells drop out of the body. Even a little portion of skin or the entire body may peel if the cause of skin injury is significant.

A severe skin injury might result in blisters, discomfort, or ulcers, as well as raw skin that hasn’t yet healed. In addition to exterior causes such as a burn, interior factors such as a pharmaceutical reaction or autoimmune illness can also induce this pattern of skin injury. Unless treated early, painful skin illnesses are often serious or life-threatening.

Symptoms of Peeling Skin

Depending on the underlying illness or disorder, skin peeling may show various symptoms. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Bleeding
  • Blistering
  • Burning
  • Dryness
  • Inflammation
  • Irritation
  • Itching
  • Rash
  • Redness
  • Scaling
  • Swelling
  • Thickening
  • Warmth

Causes of Peeling Skin

  • Atopic dermatitis (eczema)
  • Contact dermatitis (contact with allergens, such as perfumes, poison ivy, and soaps)
  • Drug reactions
  • Kawasaki disease (inflammatory disease primarily affecting young children and infants)
  • Psoriasis
  • Scarlet fever
  • Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome
  • Tinea infections (Athlete’s foot, jock itch, ringworm)
  • Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (type of blood cancer that affects the skin)
  • Skin cancer
  • Stevens-Johnson syndrome (erythema multiforme major, a skin disorder caused by serious infection or allergic reaction)
  • Toxic epidermal necrolysis (severe reaction likely caused by a drug reaction)
  • Toxic shock syndrome

Treatment of Peeling Skin

The treatment will be determined by the underlying condition. Peeling that occurs as a result of skin injury is a normal occurrence. Allowing the skin to recover is crucial, and never attempt to remove or peel the skin.

Your doctor will first identify whether the problem is due to an infection or an underlying medical issue, and then treat it accordingly. Prescription or over-the-counter topical treatments, such as thick creams and ointments like petroleum jelly (Vaseline®), are better than lotions for dryness, itching, and redness relief.

When To See The Doctor

The cause of skin peeling can be serious or even fatal in some situations. If you are suffering any of the following symptoms, seek medical help as soon as possible.

  • Fever or chills
  • Skin pain or swelling
  • Confusion, disorientation, or a loss of consciousness
  • Shortness of breath, wheezing, or difficulty with breathing
  • Joint pain
  • Hives, rash, or blisters including blisters in the mouth, eyes, or genitals
  • Headache
  • Nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Changes in vision or dryness of the eyes
  • Any large burn especially if the person is a child, elderly, or otherwise sick



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