Common Skin Problems & Solutions
Is your skin itchy, oozing, or breaking out? Moles, rashes, hives, and eczema are just a few of the more than 3,000 skin disorders that affect people every day. Changes in color or texture can result from inflammation, infection, or allergic reactions anywhere on the body. Some skin conditions can be minor, temporary, and easily treated -- while others can be very serious, and even deadly. Read on to see signs and symptoms of the most common skin disorders and learn how to identify them.
Shingles (Herpes Zoster)
Herpes zoster, also known as shingles, is caused by the return of a chickenpox infection from latently infected nerve cells in the spinal cord or brain. It begins as a painful sensation which is often mistaken for a musculoskeletal injury or even a heart attack.. It is soon followed within one or two days by a red, blistering unilateral (one-sided) rash distributed to the skin supplied by a sensory nerve (a dermatome). Zoster tends to occur most often in the elderly and can be largely prevented or made less severe with a vaccination. Treatment with antiviral drugs within 48 hours of the onset of the eruption may limit the development of a persistent, severe pain (neuralgia) at the site of the eruption.
Hives, also known as urticaria, is a very common allergic skin condition most often due to antibodies in the bloodstream that recognize foreign substances. This eruption appears suddenly anywhere on the body as elevated blanched bumps surrounded by an intensely itchy red rash. There may be many lesions, but each one only exists for eight to 12 hours. As older ones resolve, newer ones may develop. Most of the time, urticaria resolves spontaneously within eight weeks and is treated with oral antihistamines for symptomatic relief.
Psoriasis is a chronic, inflammatory genetic condition in which patients develop scaling red bumps that coalesce into plaques and typically occur but are not limited to the scalp, elbows, and knees. Psoriasis is not curable; it can come and go by itself. There are a variety of treatments depending on the severity and extent of involvement, which vary from topical creams and ultraviolet light exposure to oral drugs and injectable medications. Patients with psoriasis more commonly develop cardiovascular disease and diabetes, which may be attributable to system-wide inflammation.
Atopic dermatitis (called eczema) is a genetic condition that presents in early childhood with a chronic itchy, weeping, oozing dermatitis. It tends to localize to the arm creases opposite the elbow and on the leg opposite the knee. Many patients also have inhalant allergies such as asthma and hay fever. The condition improves with age. Treatment involves the application of emollients to wet skin and the use of topical steroids.
Rosacea is a chronic inflammatory condition of the face that is characterized by redness, dilated blood vessels, papules, pustules, and occasionally by the overgrowth of nasal connective tissue (rhinophyma). It superficially resembles teenaged acne, but it occurs in adults. Persistent facial flushing is an early sign of the skin's uncontrolled sensitivity to certain naturally produced inflammatory chemicals. Treatment of rosacea involves topical and oral drugs.
Cold Sores (Fever Blisters)
Herpes labialis (cold sore) is caused by the herpes simplex virus. Cold sores commonly appear on the edge of the lip. This virus exists in a dormant state in the spinal cord nerve cells, and after certain environmental triggers like a sunburn or a cold, the virus is induced to travel along a peripheral nerve to the same skin site over and over again. The eruption is self-limited to about seven to 10 days so that treatment is unnecessary unless the eruption becomes too frequent.
In allergic individuals, the development of a linear blistering eruption occurs within 24-48 hours of exposure to a member of the poison ivy or poison oak family of plants. Since the plant contains highly allergenic chemicals, most people will become allergic after a single priming exposure. The eruption will resolve within three weeks but will occur again the next time the skin comes in contact with the plant.
Treating Plant Rashes
The repeated application of cool wet compresses to the blisters followed by evaporation of the water can be soothing and speed healing. Treatment with steroids creams or even oral steroids may be required in severe cases. Once a person is allergic, this is permanent; it is important to avoid this plant family assiduously so this very unpleasant allergic reaction will not recur. Many of those allergic to poison ivy or poison oak (Toxicodendron) are also sensitive to mango skin and cashew nut oil.