An Introduction To Skin Disease

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Our skin, the largest organ of our body with a surface area of about 20 square feet, is obviously susceptible to skin diseases. Its numerous vital functions include protecting the body from microbes and elements, body temperature control, and transmitting sensations such as touch, heat, and cold. Our skin consists of three layers. The outermost waterproof layer is the epidermis and this layer displays our skin tone. The middle layer containing hair follicles and sweat glands is the dermis. The deepest layer is the subcutaneous layer and is also known as the hypodermis. This layer contains fat and connective tissue. Skin conditions can affect any one of these layers. When visiting any doctor, the medical terminology can be overwhelming if you do not have a medical background. Read below to understand the different terms for skin disease that may be used by your dermatologist, so you can be ready for your next visit!

Defining Skin Diseases In Simple Terms

Nearly all changes in our skin, from a simple skin irritation to a diagnosed medical condition, are commonly referred to as a rash. We are going to define these conditions in a little more detail below.

  • Dermatitis

    An inflammation of the skin. This is a medical term for a rash, but it can be further defined into specific causes, such as allergy, irritation, or eczema.

  • Eczema

    A skin inflammation causing an itchy rash, often due to a genetic predisposition for sensitive skin or decreased skin barrier.

  • Psoriasis

    An autoimmune condition causing a skin rash that normally presents as silver scaly plaques on the scalp, elbows and knees.

  • Dandruff

    A scaly condition of the scalp and face otherwise known as seborrheic dermatitis. The cause is unknown but may be a reaction to common yeast organisms that live on the skin.

  • Acne

    A common skin condition causing whiteheads, blackheads, and cysts on the skin due to clogged hair follicles, excess oil production and hormones.

  • Cellulitis

    An infection of the skin presenting as a red, warm, and painful rash.

  • Skin Abscess

    Also referred to as a boil or furuncle, is a collection of pus under the skin causing a localized skin infection. This usually requires incision and drainage by a doctor.

  • Rosacea

    A poorly understood chronic skin condition presenting as a red rash on the face, usually the cheeks and nose, and sometimes pimples.

  • Warts

    A virus infecting the skin resulting in excessive growth of skin cells. The little lumps formed are benign in nature.

  • Melanoma

    The most dangerous form of skin cancer presenting as an irregular, growing, changing or bleeding mole.

  • Basal Cell Carcinoma

    The most common form of skin cancer that often looks like a pink pearly bump or a non-healing pimple. It is slow spreading so less dangerous than a melanoma.

  • Seborrheic Keratosis

    This is a very common benign, warty, itchy growth often in older adults. Only needs to be removed by a doctor if bothersome.

  • Active Keratosis

    This scaly or crusty bump on sun exposed skin. If left untreated, these growths can progress to skin cancer.

  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma

    A very slow healing ulcer or abnormal growth on sun exposed skin, this is the second most common form of skin cancer.

  • Herpes

    Periodic painful blisters on lips or genitals caused by the herpes HSV-1 or HSV-2 virus.

  • Tinea Versicolor

    White, pink or brown patches with thin scale usually found on the neck, chest and back. Sometimes called “sun spots” because they become more obvious when the skin is tanned. Caused by a benign fungal infection.

  • Viral Exantham

    A red rash, sometimes bumpy and itchy, due to a variety of viruses. Often preceded by a high fever, these rashes are very common in children.

  • Shingles

    Is a result of the chicken pox / herpes zoster virus that a person has as a child. It lays dormant in the nerves and then comes out when a person is stressed or their immune system is low. Shingles is characterized as a very painful, blistery red rash on one side of the body.

  • Scabies

    An itchy rash commonly found in web of fingers, wrists, elbows and buttocks is caused by tiny mites that burrow under the skin.

  • Ringworm

    Also called “tinea corporis” this is a red circular rash often with clear skin in the middle. Not caused by worms, this is a ring shaped fungal rash. Usually spread by skin-to-skin contact or from pets.

Ways To Diagnose And Treat Skin Disorders

A Dermatologist, or skin specialist is the best person to diagnose and treat a skin disorder. Diagnostic tests include a skin biopsy and examination under a microscope or a skin test (used to determine allergies) where extracts of common substances are applied to the skin and the reaction is observed. Once the specialist has a diagnosis there are various forms of treatment that may be prescribed.

  • Corticosteroids

    Often prescribed topically. Decrease the inflammation and improve dermatitis.

  • Antibiotics

    Usually prescribed for infections, such as cellulitis. Kills bacteria.

  • Antiviral Drugs

    These are prescribed to suppress the herpes virus.

  • Antifungal

    Prescribed for fungal infections. Antifungals can be topical creams/ointments or oral pills.

  • Antihistamines

    Also prescribed topically or orally. Blocks histamine and are used when the rash is itchy.

  • Immune Modulators

    They improve psoriasis or dermatitis by modifying the activity of the immune system.

  • Skin Emollients / Moisturizers

    Prescribed for very itchy or dry skin and assists to calm skin irritation.

  • Surgery

    Required when the diagnosis is skin cancer. A special type of skin cancer surgery is called Mohs Surgery.

The prevention of skin cancer is often within our control. Avoiding exposure to the sun between 10am and 2pm, wearing a large brim hat, sunglasses, and a protective sunscreen containing a minimum 30 sun protection factor should be a part of our daily routine. We recommend that everyone schedules an annual mole check with his/her dermatologist and always reports suspicious skin lesions as soon as possible. Schedule a thorough full body exam with one of our providers today at one of our convenient locations in Boca Raton or Boynton Beach.