Many common skin disorders are minor and relatively harmless. However, these conditions could also be a sign of something more serious. Read on to learn about some of the most common skin disorders and what they could mean for your health.
Eczema is the most common type of skin condition, and is used to describe a number of disorders that cause dry, red and itchy skin. While doctors don’t know the exact cause of this non-contagious condition, it seems to be triggered by stress, allergens, climate and certain irritants like soaps and lotions. Eczema most often appears on your hands, elbows and the folds of your skin. Depending on the type of eczema, symptoms may go away after a couple weeks or could last for years. Treatments include topical ointments, oral medications and shots.
Psoriasis develops when your immune system causes skin cells to reproduce too quickly. This causes red, scaly patches to appear on your skin — typically on your elbows, knees, lower back and scalp. Nearly half of patients with psoriasis have a family member who also has the disorder, so there is a strong genetic component. Psoriasis can come and go throughout your lifetime, but there are treatments you can try including skin creams and ointments, medications and light therapy.
Itching or burning welts in various sizes on your skin could be a sign of hives. Hives can be caused by a number of things, including infections like strep throat, a reaction to extreme temperatures or an allergic reaction to food or medications. These reactions can go away quickly or last for a few days. If you are experiencing hives, skin creams and antihistamines can help reduce your symptoms.
Shingles are often characterized by a raised, dotted rash that turns into painful blisters. These blisters can appear anywhere, but often start on your trunk or buttocks. While shingles outbreaks typically last about two weeks, the side effects — including itching and numbness — can last much longer. It’s important to get treated for shingles right away to avoid ongoing complications. Treatment can include skin creams, steroids and antiviral drugs.
Skin disorders can be treated with the help of a dermatologist — a doctor that specializes in diagnosing and treating skin disorders. If you are experiencing the uncomfortable symptoms of a skin condition, contact your dermatologist or primary care doctor to learn what treatment options are available to you.
This article first appeared in the September 2019 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter and was updated in November 2023.