Written By: Samana Agha | 06 September 2023
Our skin is the largest organ in our body and plays an important role as a protective barrier against germs, heat, sunlight and injuries. However, many people suffer from various skin conditions that can cause irritation, discomfort or more serious health issues. In this blog, we’ll discuss some of the most common skin conditions that affect people.
Acne is arguably the most common skin condition. It occurs when hair follicles become clogged with oil and dead skin cells, leading to whiteheads, blackheads, pimples, cysts and nodules. Acne is most common during puberty due to hormonal changes, but many adults continue to get acne well into adulthood. The exact causes are unknown but contributing factors include genetics, hormones, bacteria, medications and stress. Acne usually occurs on the face, back, chest and shoulders. Mild acne can be managed with over-the-counter cleansers, while more severe cases may require prescription medications or procedures.
Eczema is an itchy inflammation of the skin. There are several types of eczema, with atopic dermatitis being the most common. Eczema causes dry, sensitive skin that is easily irritated and inflamed. Flare-ups can be triggered by allergens, weather, stress, soap, fabrics and other irritants. Eczema often first appears in infancy or childhood but can persist into adulthood. It usually occurs on the face, insides of elbows, backs of knees and other areas. Eczema has no cure, but symptoms can be managed by avoiding triggers, using moisturisers and getting prescription medications for more severe cases.
Psoriasis leads to a rapid buildup of skin cells, causing raised, red, scaly patches. Psoriasis can occur anywhere on the body but most often affects the scalp, elbows, knees and lower back. Triggers include infections, stress, cold weather and injuries. While there is no cure, psoriasis can be controlled with medications, light therapy and lifestyle changes. Some cases are mild, while others can greatly impact quality of life.
Rosacea is a chronic inflammatory skin disorder that mainly affects the central face. It causes facial redness, spider-like blood vessels, acne-like bumps, burning/stinging and thickened skin. While the exact cause is unknown, rosacea tends to run in families and appears to be linked to immune and vascular systems. Triggers include sun exposure, stress, spicy foods, alcohol, hot weather and skin care products. There is no cure but symptoms can be managed with medications, gentle skincare and lifestyle modifications. Severe rosacea can lead to swelling and vision problems if left untreated.
Cold sores are small, painful blisters around the lips and mouth caused by the herpes simplex virus. Once infected with the virus, most people get periodic cold sore outbreaks triggered by stress, illness, sun and menstruation. Cold sores usually heal within 2-3 weeks without scarring but are highly contagious. Antiviral creams can speed healing and reduce pain when applied at the first sign of an outbreak.
Shingles is caused by the same virus that leads to chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays dormant in the body. Shingles occurs when the virus reactivates, often many years later. It causes a painful rash with fluid-filled blisters that appears on one side of the body, often wrapping around the waist or torso. It is more common in older adults and people with weakened immune systems. Antiviral medications can reduce severity if given early.
Skin tags are small, soft, skin-coloured growths that hang off the skin on a tiny stalk. They are benign tumours that commonly occur in skin folds of the neck, armpits, eyelids and groin. Skin tags affect about half of adults and are not harmful, though they can become irritated. Skin tags can be safely removed by a dermatologist if desired for cosmetic reasons.
Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that causes scaling, flaking, itching and redness. The infection thrives in warm, damp places like public showers, locker rooms and swimming pools. Symptoms often occur between the toes but can spread to the soles and sides of the feet. Topical antifungal creams usually clear up an athlete’s foot within a few weeks. Keeping the feet clean and dry can help prevent reoccurrence.
Warts are non-cancerous skin growths caused by viral infections in the top layer of skin. They have a rough texture and can appear anywhere on the body but are common on hands and feet. Warts are contagious and spread by touch, surface contact or through shaving razors. Most warts resolve on their own but can also be removed via freezing, burning, laser or medicated treatments.
Ingrown hairs occur when hair strands curl back into the skin instead of rising to the surface. They often become red, swollen and painful bumps. Ingrown hairs commonly occur after shaving and are most prevalent on the legs, underarms and bikini area. Proper shaving technique and exfoliation can prevent ingrown hairs. If they become infected, medically extracting the ingrown hair might be necessary.
While many skin conditions are benign, some like skin cancer can be serious. See a dermatologist if you have any growths or spots that concern you, experience severe symptoms or don’t respond to self-care. With professional dermatologist consultation, most skin conditions can be managed for a lifetime of healthy, radiant skin.