Common Skin Problems
Acne is the term used to describe blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, minor lumps or any plugged pores that occur on the face or upper torso. While most major acne problems occur during adolescence, this condition can occur before and after the teenage years. While acne can affect males and females, males tend to have more severe, longer lasting types of the condition and many females will have frequent flare-ups of acne during hormonal shifts (such as their menstrual cycle). Minor acne often results in low self-esteem because it can mar the natural beauty of the facial features. In general, minor acne will come and go on its own, recurring more frequently between the ages of adolescence and tapering off in regularity thereafter. More extreme acne can lead to serious permanent scarring, which is the result of tissue injury. In some cases, acne can continually afflict a person later in life.
Many people are concerned with acne prevention. Medications are available to lessen the severity of outbreaks, and your doctor can recommend changes in habit that may reduce outbreaks. If you do have acne, there are ways to prevent acne scarring. Treating acne inflammation at the onset of the condition will help lessen the severity of the injury to your tissue, which will prevent or decrease scarring. If over-the-counter medication is not working for you, your doctor can prescribe stronger, more intensive medication.
Eczema is sometimes called dermatitis. It is actually a group of skin conditions that can affect you at any age. It is not contagious but can be uncomfortable because it makes the skin hot and itchy. In severe cases, it can even cause bleeding. There are several types of eczema and each type requires different treatment methods. Eczema can occur because of irritation, allergic reaction or hereditary conditions. The most common variety is atopic eczema, which can be treated with steroids to reduce inflammation and creams to relieve the itchiness and dryness. In some cases, light treatments and dietary changes have been shown to help. While there is no cure for eczema, many people grow out of it. In addition, using the proper medications and staying clear of substances that cause eczema to flare up can greatly reduce your discomfort and can lessen the severity of the condition. Only your doctor can correctly diagnose and analyze your condition. It is important to consult with your physician to make sure that you receive the most effective and efficient treatment possible.
A chronic skin and eye condition, rosacea’s symptoms include redness and pimples in the early stages and thickened skin and sometimes an enlarged nose in the advanced stages. People with this condition experience frequent facial flushing, accompanied by swelling or burning. Although doctors are still exploring the cause for this condition, it is clear that the blood vessels in afflicted people dilate far more easily than normal, which stimulates many of the symptoms. When rosacea affects the eyes, people experience dryness, itching, burning sensations and swelling in and around their eyes. Some also complain of light sensitivity and blurred vision. In most cases, outbreaks of rosacea occur around the facial areas. Many doctors believe that heat exposure, strenuous exercise, stress, alcohol consumption and spicy foods may all contribute to increased redness.
Rosacea has no cure, but a variety of treatments are available. Treatments are intended to control outbreaks and they are also intended to improve physical appearance. Antibiotics are generally used to regulate the condition. Laser surgery or electro-surgery options are available for more severe cases.
Psoriasis is a chronic disorder that creates itchy, red marks on the body. These areas form multi-layered “scales” that vary in severity. Psoriasis can occur at any age in both males and females. It is not contagious, though there does seem to be a hereditary connection. It is not a life-threatening condition, and in most cases, people who have mild symptoms may not even know that they have psoriasis. Cuts, scratches, infections and dry skin seem to cause flare-ups. In addition, lack of sun exposure and certain medications may cause psoriasis to flare up. Often, psoriasis affects the same area repeatedly. Elbows, arms, knees and legs are commonly afflicted areas.
Generally, your doctor can diagnose you merely by examining your skin, but he or she may also perform a biopsy if needed. Steroids, oils, sprays, medications, vitamins, light therapy and many other treatments are available. Based on the severity of your condition, your doctor will consult with you to find the treatment that’s best for you. It is important to treat this condition, both to alleviate pain and to help significantly improve your quality of life.
There are three basic forms of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma. Anyone can be diagnosed with cancer at any age. Doctors link these forms of cancer to overexposure to the sun. Tanning booths can also increase your risk, as can exposure to radiation or high altitude. Because each type of skin cancer has a different look, effect and treatment, it is important to alert your physician if you notice unusual changes in the size and shape of spots, the coloration of your skin or the sensitivity and comfort of your body. Time is of the essence, and when caught early, many forms of skin cancer can be successfully treated.
Basal cell carcinoma is the most prevalent form of skin cancer. It appears as an irregularly shaped blemish or blister that crusts over or bleeds without healing. In some cases, this cancer can cause the lashes of the eyelids to fall out. While this form of cancer is rarely life threatening, failure to treat it in a timely manner can cause serious damage to your tissue and bones.
Squamous cell carcinoma often originates on the face and surrounding areas. It can appear as waxy or shiny patches or as small red or white bumps on the skin. If not treated, it can spread to the internal organs and become a life threatening condition.
Malignant melanoma is by far the deadliest form of skin cancer. This form of cancer generally begins within moles. While it occurs less frequently than the other forms of skin cancer, it is more dangerous because, if not treated quickly, it can spread throughout the entire body, proving fatal.
In situations where the cancer is relatively small, your doctor will surgically excise the cancerous tissue and then reconstruct the area. In more extreme cases, where the cancer is larger or has spread to other areas of the body, measures such as cryosurgery (where the cancer is frozen) or radiation therapy may be recommended. In addition, Mohs surgery (in which the cancer is taken off in layers) have been successful in eradicating cancerous cells. The important thing is to contact your doctor immediately for a consultation if you feel that you are showing symptoms of any of these conditions. After surgery, it is important to carefully check your skin regularly for recurrences, and you should visit your doctor regularly for routine exams.
One of the most noticed, and complained about, skin conditions today is the presence of fine lines and wrinkles. Wrinkles are a natural part of the aging process as the elastic bonds in your skin begin to break down, hindering your skin’s ability to retain moisture. Simultaneously, the fat underneath our skin layers begins to deplete, eventually causing folds and creases in the skin, or wrinkles. There have been many advances made in just the last several years to minimize the look of wrinkles, from injections to dermal fillers to microdermabrasion. There are also effective means of preventing wrinkles from occurring in the first place, but the most important ways are simply to protect your skin by avoiding sun exposure and smoking.
While many people think of a bronzed complexion as “healthier” than a lighter complexion, there is actually no one single factor more responsible for cosmetic and medical skin conditions than sun exposure. Repeated overexposure to the sun without proper protection such as sunscreen can lead to a wide variety of conditions, including uneven pigmentation, lentigines (age spots), solar elastosis (which causes sagging skin and vertical wrinkles), melasma, poikiloderma (reddish-brown pigmentation on the neck or cheeks), solar keratoses, and of course, skin cancer.
Solar lentigines can go by many names, such as “age spots”, “brown spots”, “liver spots” and “sun spots”. Regardless of what you may call them, these spots have one cause: exposure to the sun. Especially for people with light skin, the cells in our skin that causes pigmentation to protect us from the sun, called melanocytes, can be damaged by overexposure to the sun, causing a deposit of the pigment melanin to form, resulting in a solar lentigo. They often form in areas most prone to sun exposure, such as the face, neck, arms, hands, and upper back and chest. Treatments for these spots include a variety of lasers, and are usually very effective in minimizing or eliminating the appearance of solar lentigines.
Stretch marks, also known as striae, are typically caused when growth or weight gain causes skin to stretch beyond its normal limit of elasticity. The rapid skin expansion results in an off-hue stria, usually a blue or red color. Though stretch marks are usually associated with obesity, they can occur during any period of rapid growth or skin expansion, such as rapid muscle growth, a “growth spurt” during puberty, or pregnancy. Though stretch marks do not pose a health risk, and do not indicate any inability for the skin to heal or stretch, they are a common cosmetic worry, and treatments for stretch marks do exist, including laser treatments and microneedling.
When you see red or blue marks resembling spider webs or tree branches on a body part (commonly the legs and face), these are typically spider veins. Spider veins are similar to varicose veins, but smaller and closer to the surface of the skin, while varicose veins are larger and deeper. Veins act as a way to get blood from body parts back to the heart, and come with one-way flaps to prevent blood from flowing backwards. If these flaps deteriorate or malfunction, blood can flow back into the veins and pool there, causing the visual effect of spider veins. This condition is usually associated with age and obesity, but can also be affected by hormone changes, smoking, heredity and sun overexposure. Several treatments for spider veins exist, including laser-based solutions and sclerotherapy, where a saline solution is injected into the vein in order to close it.