Scales are a visible peeling or flaking of outer skin layers. These layers are called the stratum corneum.
Skin flaking; Scaly skin; Papulosquamous disorders; Ichthyosis
Scales may be caused by dry skin, certain inflammatory skin conditions, or infections.
Examples of disorders that can cause scales include:
If your health care provider diagnoses you with dry skin, you'll likely be recommended the following self-care measures:
If your provider diagnoses you with a skin disorder, such as an inflammatory or fungal disease, follow instructions on home care. This may include using a medicine on your skin. You may also need to take a medicine by mouth.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your provider if your skin symptoms continue and self-care measures aren't helping.
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
The provider will perform a physical exam to look closely at your skin. You may be asked questions such as when the scaling began, what other symptoms you have, and any self-care you've done at home.
You may need blood tests to check for other conditions.
Treatment depends on the cause of your skin problem. You may need to apply medicine to the skin, or take medicine by mouth.
Habif TP. Psoriasis and other papulosquamous diseases. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 8.
Marks JG, Miller JJ. Scaling papules, plaques, and patches. In: Marks JG, Miller JJ, eds. Lookingbill and Marks' Principles of Dermatology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 9.
Review Date: 4/16/2019
Reviewed By: Michael Lehrer, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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