What’s Wrong With Your Skin?
Thu Nov 14 17:45:04 UTC 2013
Your skin is an important organ – the largest in the body. It’s the first line of defense against harmful bacteria and viruses. It helps retain nutrients and water and regulates your body’s temperature, but sometimes your skin can play tricks on you. Itchy bumps may develop or your skin may become dry and flaky. Here’s a look at some of the major types of skin conditions.
Atopic dermatitis, also called eczema, is a common skin condition. There are many triggers, including cooler weather. It causes itchy patches of skin that are dry and scaly. Scratching may cause the skin to crack, blister, and become infected. Treatments can control atopic dermatitis flare-ups and include medicine, skin care, and lifestyle changes.
Contact dermatitis is skin inflammation that develops after touching an irritant. The red, itchy, blistery rash caused by poison ivy or poison oak is a type of contact dermatitis. Other common triggers include nickel in jewelry, latex, and certain cosmetics, perfumes, and soaps. Some irritants can burn your skin. The best treatment is prevention. Avoid substances that cause irritation. If you develop contact dermatitis, medicines and creams can provide relief.
Hives, also called urticaria, are itchy welts on the skin. Hives are usually caused by an allergic reaction. Hives vary in size from tiny spots to huge weals. Sometimes large welts occur deep under the skin and cause the lips and eyelids to swell. This is called angioedema. Doctors treat hives and angioedema with antihistamines, which reduce itching, swelling and other symptoms. You can buy antihistamines at your local drugstore. For severe symptoms, your doctor may prescribe oral corticosteroid medicine.
Molluscum contagiosum is a common skin problem caused by a virus. The condition is very contagious and spreads by casual or intimate contact. Usually the only sign of the disease is pink or flesh-colored bumps on the skin. Scratching or picking the bumps can cause the virus to spread to different areas of the body. The virus may go away on its own, but doctors usually recommend treating the bumps with prescription medicine or minor procedures to remove or destroy the bumps.
Psoriasis occurs when your immune system signals your skin to grow too quickly. The body is unable to shed the excess skin cells. As a result, skin cells pile up on the surface forming plaques—raised patches of thick, scaly skin that are white, silvery or red. Psoriasis most commonly affects the elbows, knees, scalp, and lower back. Many treatments are available including cream, light therapy, and oral or injected medicine.
Rosacea is a condition that causes redness and flushing of the face. Depending on the type of rosacea, other symptoms may include visible blood vessels, swelling, small red or pus-filled bumps, thickened skin, and eye irritation. Rosacea may come and go. Certain food and skin products, extreme temperatures, and sun exposure can trigger a flare-up. There is no cure, but medications and minor surgical procedures may improve your appearance.
Shingles is an infection of the nerves. It is caused by reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox in childhood. Shingles causes a painful, blistering rash. Other signs include burning or shooting pain and tingling or itching skin, usually on one side of the body or face. Antiviral medicines, steroids, and topical creams can ease symptoms, but the virus must run its course. A vaccine can prevent shingles. Most insurance companies only cover the cost of the vaccine in adults 60 and older, but the vaccine is effective in younger adults too.
If you develop a rash or other type of skin problem, make an appointment to see your doctor. Many skin conditions have similar symptoms, so it is important to get a correct diagnosis. Then your doctor can recommend a treatment to relieve your discomfort and prevent further skin problems. As with any medical problem, the sooner you get to the root cause, the better. It’s possible that allergies cause or at least aggravate some of your skin conditions. Discuss this possibility with your doctor, and whether allergy skin tests may help you.
Medically Reviewed By: William C. Lloyd III, MD Last Annual Review Date: October 30, 2013
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