SKINvestigation

Not sure why your skin is itching, breaking out, or acting weird? From acne to eczema, get an overview of skin conditions here:

 

#1 – Acne
Acne problems start when oil and dead skin cells clog up your pores. Mild acne is having just a few red spots or pimples. Severe acne can mean hundreds of pimples that can cover the face, neck, chest, and back. Or, it can be bigger, solid, red lumps that are painful (cysts).

» WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, pustules, and some skin cysts are markers of acne. They occur on the face, neck, shoulders, back, or chest. Large, deep pimples, called cystic lesions, are painful if infected and are prone to scarring the skin.

» WHAT CAUSES ACNE?
Acne starts when oil and dead skin cells clog the skin’s pores. If germs get into the pores, the result can be swelling, redness, and pus.

Acne often starts during the teen years because of hormone changes that make the skin more oily. Also, if one of your parents had severe acne, you are more likely to have it. Women tend to develop acne in the days before their menstrual periods. You do not get acne from eating chocolate or greasy foods but you can aggravate it if you use oily skin products.

» HOW IS ACNE TREATED?
To treat pimples, look for an acne cream that has benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. These work best when used just the way the label says.

It can take time to get acne under control. You may even notice that it gets worse before it gets better. If your skin is not better after 8 weeks, try another product.

To help control acne, keep your skin clean. Wash your skin once or twice a day with a gentle soap or acne wash. Use only “noncomedogenic” products that do not clog your pores.

Try not to scrub or pick at your pimples. This can make them worse and can cause scars.

 

#2 – Psoriasis
Psoriasis is a common and chronic condition that causes patches of itchy, scaly and sometimes inflamed skin. About 90% of all cases of psoriasis are plaque psoriasis. Although they can appear anywhere, these patches – called plaques – are most likely to crop up on the knees, elbows, hands, feet, scalp or back. The fingernails and toenails are also affected in about 50% of active psoriasis cases.

» WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Reddened, inflamed skin with a whitish, flaky layer of dead cells on top are the classic symptoms of psoriasis. Layers of skin build up to form white, flaky crusts. Blood vessels increase flow in an attempt to nourish this skin, which leads to redness and swelling. While the itching and pain is unpleasant, its worst effects are often emotional as people with severe psoriasis may be so overwhelmed by their condition and appearance.

Common signs for plaque psoriasis include:

  • Plaques of red, inflamed skin, covered with loose, silver-colored scales. These plaques may be itchy and painful and even crack and bleed. In severe cases, the plaques grow and merge into one another covering large areas.
  • Disorders of the fingernails and toenails, including discoloration and pitting of the nails. The nails may also begin to crumble or detach from the nail bed.
  • Plaques or crust on the scalp.
  • Small areas of bleeding where the involved skin is scratched.

Between 10% to 30% of psoriasis cases also get psoriatic arthritis, which causes pain and swelling in the joints.

» WHAT CAUSES PSORIASIS?
Although psoriasis is labeled as a skin condition, its real cause is a problem with the immune system.

The immune system of people with psoriasis malfunction. One type of white blood cell, the T-cell, overproduces a substance called cytokines thus switching off a signal that controls the growth of skin cells. When the skin cells grow too quickly, cell turnover happens in a matter of days instead of the normal period of over a month.

You can’t catch psoriasis from another person. Neither can you give it to anyone else or spread it from one part of your body to another by touch. Experts now know that if psoriasis runs in your family, your chances of developing it are higher.

Certain triggers like cold dry weather, stress, medications, disease, skin trauma, alcohol and smoking can also worsen psoriasis or cause flare-ups.

» HOW IS PSORIASIS TREATED?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for psoriasis. But there are many effective treatments that can be used alone or in combination to manage psoriasis. They include topical treatments, phototherapy, and oral and injected medications.

Doctors have traditionally used a “1-2-3” approach to treating psoriasis. You start with topical creams and ointments. If they aren’t enough, you might move on to phototherapy. If your psoriasis still isn’t under control, you then might try systemic or biologic medications. However, this incremental approach is only a rule of thumb.

One of the terribly frustrating things about psoriasis is that effective treatments may not stay effective. Just when you finally feel like you’ve found a cream or medication that keeps your psoriasis under control, you may have another flare-up. But don’t despair. It’s important to try to stay emotionally and physically healthy during treatment. And it’s important to keep trying.

#3 – Eczema
Eczema is a family of skin conditions that causes inflamed or irritated skin. It can happen at any age, even in infancy, and often affects the face, hands, knees, or feet.

Atopic dermatitis, or atopic eczema is the most common type of eczema. Atopic refers to a group of diseases with an often inherited tendency to develop other allergic conditions, such as asthma and hay fever.

Atopic eczema is particularly common in young children and infants. While many infants who develop the condition outgrow it by their second birthday, some people continue to experience symptoms on and off throughout life. With proper treatment, the disease can be controlled in the majority of sufferers.

» WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
No matter which part of the skin is affected, eczema is almost always itchy. Sometimes the itching will start before the rash appears, but when it does the rash most commonly occurs on the face, knees, hands or feet.

Affected areas usually appear very dry, thickened or scaly. In fair-skinned people, these areas may initially appear reddish and then turn brown. Among darker-skinned people, eczema can affect pigmentation, making the affected area lighter or darker. In infants, the itchy rash can produce an oozing, crusting condition that occurs mainly on the face and scalp, but patches may appear anywhere.

» WHAT CAUSES ECZEMA?
The exact cause is unknown, but eczema is thought to be linked to an overactive response by the body’s immune system to a bacterium on the skin or an irritant.

Eczema is also common in families with a history of allergies or asthma.

Some people may suffer “flare-ups” of the itchy rash in response to certain substances or conditions. For example, coming into contact with coarse materials, feeling too hot or too cold, feeling stressed, exposure to household cleaning products or coming into contact with animal dander. Upper respiratory infections or colds may also be triggers.

While there is no cure, most people can effectively manage their disease with medical treatment and by avoiding irritants. Eczema is not contagious and can’t be spread from person to person.

» HOW IS ECZEMA TREATED?
The goal of treatment is to relieve and prevent itching, which can lead to infection. Since the disease makes skin dry and itchy, lotions and creams are recommended to keep the skin moist. These solutions are usually applied when the skin is damp, such as after bathing, to help the skin retain moisture. Cold compresses may also be used to relieve itching.

Over-the-counter or prescription creams and ointments containing corticosteroids, such as hydrocortisone, help to reduce inflammations. For severe cases, your doctor may prescribe oral corticosteriods and if the affected area becomes infected, antibiotics to kill the infection-causing bacteria.

Other treatments include antihistamines to reduce severe itching, tar treatments (chemicals designed to reduce itching) and phototherapy (therapy using ultraviolet light applied to the skin).

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