This common dermatitis is often misdiagnosed and usually overtreated. Familiarity with the physical findings will allow an accurate assessment of the underlying cause, and symptoms can usually be corrected with simple measures. The condition occurs for a number of reasons, especially the following:

1. With age, skin sebum secretion diminishes, as does the water-holding capacity of the epidermis. These changes are particularly marked on the lower extremities.

2. Bathing further depletes the epidermis of its water-retaining constituents.

3. Climate has a major effect, and most patients experience symptoms for the first time during a winter season as their skin dries from exposure to the low indoor humidity produced as buildings are heated against inclement weather. Incidence will vary from place to place, depending on the severity of the season and the overall regional weather.

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