Acne is the most common skin condition found on the face, shoulders, back, chest, neck, upper arms and buttocks. Signs include red, raised pimples, pustules, cysts, nodules, blackheads and whiteheads. Acne occurs when the pores of your skin become clogged and traps skin oil inside; bacteria grown in the oil and cause skin inflammation. Sometimes a clogged pore will become so inflamed that it can lead to larger, more painful lesions called nodules or cysts. Left untreated, these legions can case scaring. It is found most often in adolescents due to increased hormones and overactive oil glands, but adults can also be affected, particularly middle-aged women.
There are many effective treatments for acne. Mild to moderate cases can be treated with prescription or over-the-counter topical medications, oral medication, or a combination of both. More severe cases of acne may require a dermatologist to prescribe stronger medications such as hormone blockers or isotretinoin (an oral medication that reduces the size of the oil glands and prevents acne scarring and new acne from forming).
Actinic Keratosis, or AK, is a rough, dry growth that forms on skin that has been badly damaged by ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or indoor tanning. Also called solar keratosis, these abnormal growths are one of the most common dermatological complaints. Although considered precancerous, if left untreated, actinic keratoses can turn into a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. By seeing a dermatologist for checkups, AKs can be treated before they become skin cancer. If skin cancer does develop, it can be caught early when treatment often cures skin cancer.
Alopecia is a term meaning hair loss. When a person has a medical condition called alopecia areata, the hair falls out in round patches on the scalp and elsewhere on the body. Alopecia can cause different types of hair loss, each with a different name:
Alopecia areata (hair loss in patches).
Alopecia totalis (hair loss on the entire scalp).
Alopecia universalis (hair loss on the body).
Only about 5% of people afflicted with alopecia lose all of their hair on the scalp or body. Hair may grow back, fall out again, or the hair loss can last for many years. Alopecia is not a contagious condition or due to nerves, but rather in immunological condition. The immune system attacks the body’s own hair follicles (roots), for an unexplained reason, and most often occurs in people who are otherwise healthy.
Atopic dermatitis (AD), often called eczema, is a common, inherited skin disease that most often affects children, particularly infants. The skin is unable to hold moisture, and results in dry, scaly patches that appear most often on the scalp, forehead and face. AD is often very itchy, and scratching can lead to a skin infection. There is no cure for atopic dermatitis, or eczema, however effective treatments are available to decrease skin breakouts, relieve the itching and to manage the care of the affected skin. Antihistamines and moisturizers are often used to relieve the symptoms and provide comfort.
Basal Cell Carcinoma (skin cancer)
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer, with more than two million cases diagnosed in the U.S. annually. The cancer usually develops on skin that gets excessive sun exposure, such as on the head, neck, and back of the hands. Basal cell carcinoma is especially common on the face, often forming on the nose, though it is possible to get this cancer on any part of the body, including the trunk, legs, and arms. People who use tanning beds have a much higher risk of getting BCC and getting it earlier in life. Because this type of skin cancer grows slowly, it rarely spreads to other parts of the body, however treatment is critical to keep the basal cells from growing wide and deep, destroying skin tissue and bone.
A birthmark is a skin marking which is present at birth or appears shortly after birth. Dermatologists divide birthmarks into two main categories – vascular “red” birthmarks and pigmented birthmarks. Red birthmarks are a caused by an overgrowth of blood vessels. There are many different kinds of vascular birthmarks, but the three most common types are macular stains, hemangiomas and port wine stains. The different types of birthmarks have their own appearance and typical locations that are usually affected. Pigmented birthmarks are areas in which the color of the birthmark is different from the color of the rest of the skin with marks ranging in color from tan, brown, black, blue or blue-grey.
Blistering (bullous) diseases affect the skin, mouth and eyes. They can be inherited (caused by genetic mutations in skin proteins) or acquired (as a result of autoimmune response). The body mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, causing blistering lesions that affect the skin and mucous membranes. Genetic blistering diseases may be present at birth or in early life, whereas the autoimmune blistering diseases typically occur later in life. The cause of most blistering diseases is not known, but some may develop as drug reactions and one type, dermatitis herpetiformis, develops with celiac disease (gluten sensitivity). Blisters can also occur in conjunction with internal disease such as lupus, diabetes and porphyria.
Symptoms and severity of blistering diseases vary from one person to another and the lesions can cover a significant portion of the skin. Although there is no cure for autoimmune blistering diseases, they can often be controlled with treatment. In recent years, research has led to new drug therapies that target the specific antibodies that cause the symptoms.
Cysts are harmless growths in the deeper layers of the skin containing fluid or solid material composed of dead skin cells that form when the lining of a hair follicle gets blocked. There are many types of cysts of different sizes that appear on various parts of the body and can range from cosmetically unpleasant to painful or even a source of infection. Ruptured cysts can become inflamed or infected, discharge pus and requiring antibiotic treatment. They may also be removed by a minor procedure that involves making a surgical opening in the skin and removing the sac (excision). This is done under local anesthetic and may require stitches.
Dermatitis is severely irritated skin that becomes red and inflamed and can be extremely itchy and sensitive. Atopic dermatitis (AD), often called eczema, is a common, inherited skin disease that most often affects children, particularly infants. The skin is unable to hold moisture, and results in dry, scaly patches that appear most often on the scalp, forehead and face. Dermatitis is often very itchy, and scratching can lead to a skin infection. There is no cure for atopic dermatitis, or eczema, however effective treatments are available to decrease skin breakouts, relieve the itching and to manage the care of the affected skin. Antihistamines and moisturizers are often used to relieve the symptoms and provide comfort.
Dry skin is a common skin condition, usually characterized by irritated skin and itchiness that can be made worse by cold, dry weather. It is important to treat dry skin before it becomes severe, leading to dermatitis (inflammation and redness of the skin). Environmental factors or harsh detergents that strip away the fatty oils can also cause dry skin. It is less common for the cause to be internal. Recommended treatment involves limiting bathing and using lukewarm water (rather than hot), applying a protective cream or gentle ointments that can also reduce itchiness and provide relief.
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a common, inherited skin disease that most often affects children, particularly infants. The skin is unable to hold moisture, and results in dry, scaly patches that appear most often on the scalp, forehead and face. AD is often very itchy, and scratching can lead to a skin infection. There is no cure for atopic dermatitis, or eczema, however effective treatments are available to decrease skin breakouts, relieve the itching and to manage the care of the affected skin. Antihistamines and moisturizers are often used to relieve the symptoms and provide comfort.
Fungal infections are very common and include athlete’s foot, jock itch, ringworm and yeast infections. These skin infections predominantly occur in areas that are warm, dark and have moisture where fungus can thrive. The affected area can be very itchy, scaly and at times have an unpleasant odor. More of a discomfort, than a serious condition, most fungal infections can be treated with an oral antifungal tablet and topical cream to provide relief for the discomfort.
Genital warts are one or more lumps that appear in the genital area. They are caused by a viral infection from the human papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted infection. Often people with HPV do not know they have been infected with the virus because the symptoms are not always apparent, however it is still possible to spread or contract these warts. Of the 100+ types of HPV, only a few can cause genital warts, though other types can cause cervical cancer, cancer of the penis, mouth or throat.
Skin is subject to a variety of common benign growths. Most don’t require medical attention, however it is important to know how to manage any growths that may appear and be able to monitor their behavior in order to differentiate them from more serious entities. Some of the most common benign growths that affect the skin are: Seborrheic keratoses, Dermatosis papulosa nigra, Sebaceous hyperplasia, Ephilides (freckles), Lentigines (liver spots), Nevus (mole), Cherry angioma, Dermatofibroma, Acrochordon (skin tag), Lipoma, Epidermal inclusion cyst, Milium and Pyogenic granuloma.
Hair loss is a normal activity with most of us losing 50-100 hairs every day. If you are experiencing significantly more than this or observe bald patches, you may be experiencing hair loss. There can be many causes for hair loss; such as: hormonal shifts, stress, diseases and even certain medical treatments. The most common cause of hair loss, however, is a medical condition called hereditary hair loss. More than 80 million men and women in the U.S suffer this type of hair loss. Some of the names for this condition are: male-pattern baldness, female-pattern baldness and androgenetic alopecia. Fortunately, most causes of hair loss can be stopped or treated by a dermatologist.
Herpes simplex is a common viral infection that is highly contagious. If you’ve ever had a cold sore or fever blister, you picked up the herpes simplex virus. Most cold sores are caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), also known as: oral herpes, mouth herpes and Herpes simplex labialis. The viruses are contagious, even when you do not see sores. A closely related herpes simplex virus, HSV-2, causes most cases of genital herpes, however either strain can cause a herpes sore on the face or genitals. There are no known cures for the virus, however, a dermatologist can recommend treatments to lessen the severity and symptoms.
Hives (urticaria) are welts on the skin that can appear on any part of the skin and often itch. Hives vary in size from as small as a pin dot to 12” in diameter. They may even connect to form even larger welts. A hive often goes away in 24 hours or less, but new hives may appear as old ones fade and so the outbreak can last for several days or even longer. Most hives are termed acute hives and last less than 6 weeks. These types of hives are often triggered by an allergy, but may have another cause. If you experience hives lasting longer, they are likely to chronic hives.
Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating)
Hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating that occurs for no apparent reason. It can appear when the temperature is not hot and you are not exercising. In some people who have hyperhidrosis, the sweat may even drips from their hands. Hyperhidrosis usually affects the palms of the hands, soles of the feet and underarms. Besides disrupting normal daily activities, hyperhidrosis can cause social anxiety or embarrassment. One treatment option is prescription-strength antiperspirants on the affected areas. In severe cases, your doctor may suggest surgery either to remove the sweat glands or to disconnect the nerves responsible for the overproduction of sweat.
Humans are natural hosts for a variety of bacterial species that can affect the skin. Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes are two that account for a wide variety of bacterial infections. Minor trauma, preexisting skin disease and poor hygiene make the skin more vulnerable to contraction infection. A more common and less serious superficial skin infection is known as Impetigo.
Insect bites and stings are sometimes unavoidable regardless of how careful you are or how many precautions you take. While prevention is the key to avoiding bites in the first place, if you do experience a bite, knowing basic first-aid is important. While some bites are painful or annoying, they do not require treatment, however there are many bites and stings that can require medical attention. For information about the most common insect bites and how to treat them, please visit the American Academy of Dermatology website.