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Is your rash a common skin condition?

Impetigo rash

We may not think twice about a small rash on our arm or leg after a hike in the woods, but what if your skin becomes intensely swollen or inflamed? The distribution, appearance, texture and color of a skin rash are key components that allow your doctor to determine the correct diagnosis and treatment plan. Check out the following examples to see if your rash is a common skin condition:

Contact dermatitis: A rash that is caused by an allergic reaction to a chemical substance that provokes an inflammatory reaction of the skin. Poison ivy and poison oak are notorious causes of contact dermatitis, but it can also be caused by reactions to certain metals, like nickel or gold, and by fragrances or preservatives in cosmetic products.

Shingles: A viral infection that causes a painful rash, shingles may appear anywhere on your body–although, it most often appears as a single stripe of blisters that wraps around either side of the torso. Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. While not life threatening, the condition can be very painful. Vaccination reduces the risk of shingles and early treatment may shorten the infection.

Eczema: A chronic skin disorder that produces red, itchy rashes on the elbow flexures, back of the knees, cheeks, hands, wrists and ankles. Symptoms normally manifest in early childhood and there is often a family history of eczema or asthma. Certain everyday objects like detergents, wool, soap and synthetic fibers or stress can inflame the condition resulting in eczema flare-ups.

Ringworm: A highly contagious, fungal infection of the skin or scalp. Ringworm is spread by skin-to-skin contact or by touching an infected animal or object. Ringworm appears as a circular, scaly rash that may be red and itchy. Ringworm of the scalp can also cause bald patches.

Rosacea: Rosacea is a facial eruption which typically begins in adult life and results in redness, increased small blood vessels, and pimples of the cheeks, nose, forehead and chin. It is more common in those of Celtic ancestry and is worsened by UV exposure. The mainstay of treatment is the daily use of zinc or titanium containing sunscreen, and topical or oral antibiotic treatment in those with inflammatory acne lesions. Laser treatment can significantly improve the redness and the appearance of small blood vessels.

Urticaria: Urticaria, more commonly known as “hives,” can occur anywhere on the skin. The lesions typically manifest as pink or red, itchy swellings that may burn or sting and are caused by an increase in histamine release in the skin. Individual lesions usually last a few hours, but an eruption may last for a few days or even weeks. Acute urticaria is usually triggered by an infection or an allergic reaction to a food or medication. In a small minority of patients, typically young females, urticaria can have a relapsing course for many years. The mainstay of treatment is with oral antihistamines.

Impetigo: Impetigo is typically only seen in young children and presents as a cluster of tender golden, crusty sores or blisters anywhere on the skin, but more commonly around the nose or mouth. Impetigo can be itchy or painful. It is a bacterial infection of the skin typically caused by Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococci type bacteria. The infection is treated with antibiotic creams or with oral antibiotics for more severe cases.

Psoriasis: Psoriasis is a common, immune-mediated condition which presents with pink or red thick scaly lesions of the skin, often occurring on the elbows, knees, trunk, scalp and nails. Triggers of flare-ups include infections, stress, cold temperatures and the use of certain medications. Up to a quarter of patients have an associated and potential deforming arthritis. It is a life-long condition in the majority of cases but topical, oral and injectable treatments can significantly improve or clear the condition.

Intertrigo: A common skin condition found in the skin folds, under the breasts, on the inner thighs, in the armpits, buttock crease (gluteal cleft) and under abdominal fat folds. The skin is red and often becomes raw or eroded because of chronic irritation and friction. Intertrigo is more common in people who are overweight or have diabetes.

Lyme disease: Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness. The most common sign is a rash patterned like a bulls-eye which appears one week to one month after the tick bite. The vast majority of people who contract Lyme disease recover completely with appropriate antibiotic treatment.

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