Is the skin problem stroke related?

5 answers | Last updated: Jul 17, 2010
A fellow caregiver asked...

My husband is 79 yr old and had a stroke at age 74 affecting his right side. His skin is so dry and flaky on his arms and lower legs. Should I take him to a doctor that specializes in the chemical make up of his body? The dermatologist just advises putting lotion on but I feel this is a breakdown of his chemical components.

Expert Answers

James Castle, M.D. is a neurologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem (affiliated with The University of Chicago) and an expert on strokes.

I haven't heard of this exact type of thing happening to someone after a stroke. Two things come to mind, however. The first is that he could be having pressure sores or stasis swelling from not moving the arm and leg (I am assuming that the dryness is only on the side affected by the stroke). The second is that he could be having some decreased perspiration from lack of neural input to the sweat glands on that side. Again, I haven't seen anything to the degree that you are describing, so this is merely a guess.

If the first item is the cause, then he would benefit from range of motion exercises and soft support under the areas of his arm and leg that lie on a surface (such as from a very soft blanket or pillow). For the second, there is not much else to do but, as your dermatologist recommends, put moisturizing lotion on the extremities.

There is a saying in dermatology: "Thousands of diagnoses, only two creams". To a first order approximation this means that if something looks dry, it needs moisturizing lotion. If something looks too moist (with fungal infection resulting) it needs a drying powder like "baby powder". It sounds like he could use some moisturizing lotion.

I would follow the direction of your Dermatologist, as in many ways this is more of a Dermatology diagnosis than a Neurology diagnosis. If you don't like what your hearing, try seeing a different Dermatologist.

As for the breakdown of chemical components, I have not heard of that happenening after a stroke.

Good luck!

Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

my husband also has this problem, but I think it is due to the inability to wash properly. I occasionaly get in the shower with him and use exfoliating products on him & it tends to be much better for a while.

A fellow caregiver answered...

I do not use soap for showers, only a lotion cleaner and a soft nylon scruber.

Vickyb answered...

Hi. This also happened to my father - he had a big stroke in 2007 when he was 66, leaving him paralysed down the right hand side of his body. Again, my mother mentioned it to the stroke doctor and they claimed never to have seen it before. She washes him daily in Emolient cream (like E45 in the UK, not sure if you have it in the US?) - NOT SOAP - and then reapplies the same cream after the shower.

This certainly helps, but his skin is much dryer, and itchier, than it EVER was pre-stroke.

We also thought that it could also be down to the cocktail of drugs my dad is also on since the stroke? My father in law also had a stroke last year and his skin has been very sensitive and dry since then, and he has adopted the same tactics.

Lvkdra answered...

How about considering diet-related? Sonia is 89, had a stroke when she was 76. I have been giving her certain supplements for the past 13 years, to be sure she has good nutrition, since elder folks do not eat as much as they once did. Amongst the ones she has every day: Vit E 100iu and Flax-Borage 500 mg in the am and a Vit A 5000iu with Vit D 400iu, Evening Primrose Oil 500mg in the pm. These all provide certain nutritional oils that are good for the skin. At night when she's ready for bed I apply some moisturizing cream to her heels, knees, and shins. Those are her troubled areas where she gets itchy occasionally. I hope this may have been of some help.