What are skin conditions?

The largest organ we have is not on the inside of our body but the one we wear on the outside: our skin. Our skin protects all of our internal organs, bones, muscles, and circulation. Our skin helps us keep warm, allows us to sweat and cools us down on hot days. It also absorbs vitamin D from sunlight. You could say that our skin is the most important organ we have.

Adults carry eight pounds and approximately 22 square feet of skin. So you can imagine the problems we might develop with such a large organ. Skin conditions are many and varied. They can range from cuts and scratches to red and itchy rashes and more serious problems like cancer. Our skin is what people see when they look at us, so its health can even impact our self-esteem.

Skin conditions can come on suddenly or develop over time. Some are genetic and impact people from birth. Some of the most common skin conditions are acne, rash or hives, psoriasis, eczema, rosacea, lupus, and different cancers. The medical term for skin is “dermis”, so the study of these different skin disorders is called dermatology. If you have a skin problem, your doctor might recommend you see a specialist called a dermatologist to determine the best treatment plan for you.

For more information on specific skin conditions, have a look at the list below:

FAQs

What are the most common skin conditions?

The most common skin conditions are: acne, cold sores, hives, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, keratosis pilaris, and melanoma. For specific details about these conditions please see our skin conditions page.

What are dermatological conditions?

Anything that irritates, clogs, or inflames your skin can cause symptoms such as redness, swelling, burning, and itching. These symptoms are not specific to a specific cause, but are general skin reactions. Allergies, irritants, your genetic makeup, and certain diseases and immune system problems can cause these symptoms in addition to rashes, hives, redness and swelling.. These symptoms can frequently be diagnosed by a primary care doctor or a dermatologist who can explain the cause and recommend the best course of treatment.

What is dermatitis?

Dermatitis is a general term that describes a skin irritation. Dermatitis is a common condition that has many causes and occurs in many forms. It usually involves dry, itchy skin, a rash or swollen, reddened skin. Severe reactions may cause the skin to blister, ooze, crust or flake off. Because dermatitis can occur from either external causes like sunburn or poison oak or internal causes like allergies or immune system diseases , you may need to see a dermatologist to diagnose your condition.

What is a melanoma?

Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer and it develops in the cells of your skin that produce pigment called melanin. Melanoma is a cancer that starts on your skin and may spread internally to other parts of your body if not treated. Look out for moles that change shape, size or colour. Contact your doctor right away if you notice any changes in your moles or an unusual freckle or spot. One important way of preventing melanoma is by avoiding extended exposure to UV light that causes sunburn, and by wearing a protective sunscreen when you go outside. Melanoma tends to run in families so if you have a close relative that has melanoma, you should get regular skin checks from a doctor.

What are the most common skin rashes?

The most common skin rashes are heat rash, lichen planus, psoriasis, ringworm, rosacea, shingles, and swimmer's itch. Many rashes look quite similar to each other but some are more serious than others. To know if you have any of these rashes it is best to see a doctor or dermatologist.

What does a bacterial infection on the skin look like?

Bacterial skin infections often begin as small, red bumps that slowly increase in size and may even produce pus. They are typically somewhat painful. Some bacterial infections are mild and easily treated with topical antibiotics, but other infections require an oral antibiotic. Contact a doctor if you have pus-filled blisters or a skin infection that doesn’t improve or gets worse after a few days. Skin infections are also common when the skin is damaged by cuts, scapes or blisters.

Skin infections can also be caused by viruses, like herpes simplex or herpes zoster. These blistering infections require antiviral medications.

What is a dermatologist?

A dermatologist is a doctor who specializes in conditions involving the skin, hair, and nails. A dermatologist can identify and treat more than 3,000 conditions. The American Academy of Dermatology oversees the profession, and is the largest, most influential, and representative dermatology group in the United States.

Can stress cause skin problems like psoriasis and rosacea?

Yes. Stress can aggravate psoriasis, rosacea, and eczema. It can also cause hives and other types of skin rashes and trigger a flare-up of fever blisters. Stress can also trigger acne to flare-up or even get worse.

Are there over-the-counter treatments for rashes?

Over-the-counter creams and ointments containing the steroid hydrocortisone are available as moisturizers and creams. Some may help control the itching, swelling, and redness linked to eczema. Ask your doctor for recommendations for over-the-counter creams and moisturizers. Steroid creams should not be used for skin infections caused by bacteria, funguses, or viruses.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.