Humans are hardwired from before birth to recognize faces. In fact, the face is one of the most important and first features on the body that we use to recognize and choose a mate.
However, there are some common skin conditions that cause conflicts in our brains because they change what they expect, skin disorders.
In this article, we shall explore some of the more common of the skin conditions found globally, acne, psoriasis, and eczema.
Acne is Not Just for Teens
These people have perhaps the most common form of skin disorder, acne and it doesn’t only plague teenagers.
Acne can form anytime the levels of certain hormones are elevated and stimulate the sebaceous glands that are attached to skin follicles. A follicle, a tiny hole where a hair anchors to the skin, (we have them everywhere). Every pore on our skin is the opening to a follicle.
Normally the oil that is produced in the sebaceous gland called sebum travels up the hair in the follicle, out of the pore and onto your skin to keep our skin lubricated and healthy.
Sometimes the passageways that connect the pores of the skin to the oil glands can become clogged with oil, dead skin or the bacteria that normally live on your skin.
The bacteria, in turn, may cause the plug that has formed in the pore to become inflamed and swollen. The resulting structure that results is known as a pimple.
Acne can be caused by several problems in the lubrication process, and sometimes involves several difficulties at once. These include:
- Too much oil produced by the follicles
- Dead skin cells accumulating in the pores
- Bacteria that has built up in the pores
Acne is most likely to be found on the face, neck, shoulders, chest, and back. Many different types of pustules will form with whiteheads and blackheads being the best known. However, there are other more serious forms these sore can take such as nodular and cystic acne that can leave scars.
The reason adolescents are most likely to develop acne is due to the growth hormones that are coursing through their bodies.
Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that is common worldwide. It involves the skin cell cycle which is speeded up and causing it to form excess skin cells on the surface. They appear as scales and red patches that are itchy and sometimes painful.
Psoriasis patches may be the size of a few spots of dandruff-like scales to huge eruptions that cover a large area. There are many types of psoriasis, and most go through cycles, flaring up for a few weeks and then going away for a time. Sometimes complete remission occurs.
Some of the symptoms of psoriasis include:
- Red patches of skin covered with thick, silvery scales
- Dry, cracked skin that can bleed
- Thickened, pitted or ridged nails
- Small scaling spots may appear on children
- Swollen and stiff joints
- Itching, burning or pain
Treatments for psoriasis involve directly treating the skin plaques themselves. These include:
Topical treatments such as steroids or non-steroidal creams. These treatments slow down the growth of skin cells and decrease inflammation.
The use of systemic medications that work all over the body. Usually, these are prescribed for moderate to severe psoriasis where the case has not responded well to other treatment options. System medications are administered via tablets, injection or infusion and are found in two categories, systemics, and biologics.
Light therapy exposes the skin to ultraviolet light daily and is monitored by your doctor. These treatments are done by a healthcare professional or at home with a phototherapy device.
The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown, but some theories suggest it might be an immune system problem with T cells and other white blood cells circulating in the body. Usually, T cells travel about the body to defend against viruses and bacteria, however, in psoriasis T cells attack healthy skin cells just like it would if the skin were infected.
Overactive T cells can also cause increased production of healthy skin cells that travel to the skin and cause redness and puss filled sores. Because the blood vessels in the areas where psoriasis has formed on the skin are forced wide-open, the skin can feel warm and appear red.
The skin builds up thick and scaly patches on the skin after a few weeks and continues in a cycle.
Researchers are not sure about what causes the T cells to malfunction, but they believe both genetics and environmental factors are involved.
While there are seven or more kinds of psoriasis, for the sake of room we are going to explore two of them, plaque psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
Plaque Psoriasis. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, plaque psoriasis is the most common form of the disorder. It presents as raised, red patches that are covered with a silvery white buildup of dead skin cells. Usually, these patches appear on the scalp, knees, elbows and lower back regions. These patches itch and are painful. Sometimes they can crack and bleed.
The symptoms of plaque psoriasis usually begin with a rash that will not go away with over-the-counter remedies. If this occurs, it is essential to see your doctor, so he can check for red, raised scales with defined edges signifying you may have this type of skin condition.
Your physician usually will prescribe medication or two and see how your skin responds before giving a diagnosis of plaque psoriasis.
While there is no cure for plaque psoriasis, there are many things one can do to become more comfortable. These include changes in your lifestyle such as using a moisturizer, smoking cessation and managing your stress level.
Psoriatic Arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis affects some people with psoriasis and is a form of arthritis that without proper treatment can be disabling. It involves red patches of skin topped with silvery scales that develop along with joint pain and sometimes skin lesions.
The joint pain, stiffness, and swelling can affect any part of the body and may include the fingertips and spine leading to mild to severe pain. Psoriatic arthritis flare-ups can alternate between periods of painfully active to quiet remissions.
As with any other type of psoriasis, there is no cure for psoriatic arthritis. The main focus in treatment is to control the symptoms and to prevent damage to the affected joints.
Eczema is a name given to a group of skin conditions that are characterized by a red, itchy rash and inflamed skin. Eczema is a very common disorder, and in most people diagnosed with it, highly treatable.
There are several different kinds of eczema including atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, nummular eczema, seborrheic dermatitis and stasis dermatitis. Flare ups of eczema can range from mild to severe and can be only a little itchy to severely painful.
We shall examine together the three most common types of eczema, atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis and nummular dermatitis.
This type of eczema makes your skin red and itchy and is commonly found in children but can occur at any age. Atopic dermatitis tends to flare up sporadically and is a long-lasting disorder that may be found occurring with asthma or hay fever.
The disease is often felt as an itchy rash on the outside bend of the elbows and on behind the knees.
Other signs and regions affected by Atopic Dermatitis may include:
- Dry skin
- Itching, sometimes severe especially during the night
- Red to brownish-gray patches that are found on the hands, feet, ankles, neck, upper chest, eyelids, and on the face and scalp of infants.
- Small raised bumps which leak fluid and form a crust when scratched
- Thickened, cracked and scaly skin
- Raw, sensitive and swollen skin from scratching
Atopic dermatitis usually begins before age five and can last into adulthood.
There is no cure for this type of eczema but there are measures one can take to help prevent outbreaks and ease them when they do happen. There is a long list of things that one can do to ease the itching and pain from flare-ups, I shall list only a few of them.
- Use moisturizer on your skin twice a day
- Use petroleum jelly on a baby’s skin to protect it
- Identify and avoid triggers of flare-ups such as certain detergents, dust, pollen, and stress
- Infants and children can have a flareup from eating certain foods. Talk to your doctor to help you identify what they might be
- Take shorter baths or showers and use warm rather than hot water
- Take a bleach bath. Ask your doctor and follow their directions carefully
- Use only gentle soaps to prevent drying out of your skin
- Dry your body carefully after bathing by gently patting your skin dry
- After a bath or shower moisturize your skin while you are still damp
There is a genetic component to atopic dermatitis, so if you have had problems with your skin there is a risk your children could as well.
This type of eczema is also called allergic dermatitis and usually forms in adulthood due to environmental factors such as cosmetics, fragrances, certain plants and the metals found in jewelry. Contact eczema is characterized by a red, itchy rash that isn’t contagious or life-threatening but is extremely uncomfortable.
Children can also develop contact eczema from contact with plant materials such as poison ivy or oak.
The rash caused by contact with an allergen usually lasts from two to four weeks and will usually clear up on its own without medical help. However, repeatedly scratching the affected area can lead to an infection and if this occurs medical attention should be sought immediately.
Symptoms of allergic dermatitis include:
- A red itchy rash
- Dry, cracked and scaly skin
- Bumps, blisters and sometimes accompanied by oozing and crusting
- Swelling, burning or pain
Direct contact with the offending substance is not always necessary as plant materials can be carried into the house on the furs of pets. During the peak season when pollination of these plants happens, it is wise to avoid contact with your pet if you suspect they may have been in contact with them.
Here is a list of more of the most common substances that can cause contact eczema:
- Medications such as antibiotic creams and oral antihistamines
- An ingredient found in many cosmetic and perfume products called Balsam of Peru
- Formaldehyde found in disinfectants and clothing
- Some products such as deodorants, hair dyes, cosmetics, body washes, and nail polish
- Airborne substances such as ragweed pollen and insecticides
- Sunscreens and some oral medications that cause a reaction when exposed to the sun
- Some plants such as poison ivy which have a highly allergenic substance in them called urushiol. Avoiding these plants is paramount to avoid a breakout.
Although these are the biggest of the offenders in contact dermatitis, there are others such as chemicals used in industry and even in a dental office.
If you do develop one of these very uncomfortable rashes, there are a few ways to decrease your discomforts such as the use of a cool wet compress to help cool your skin and anti-itch creams. However, the best and most effective treatment of this type of dermatitis is to identify and avoid the cause of the reaction on your skin.
The American Academy of Dermatology describes this form of eczema as people seeing
“distinct, coin-shaped (nummular) or oval sores on their skin. Nummular dermatitis often appears after a skin injury, such as a burn, abrasion (from friction), or insect bite.”
These oval sores usually appear in patches, and sometimes they are found in clusters of patches that last for weeks or months.
Men are more likely than women to develop nummular dermatitis, with males many times having their first outbreak between the ages of 55 and 65. However, when women do get it they are usually much younger in their teens or early adulthood.
The sores of nummular dermatitis begin as a group of tiny, red spots and blisters that weep fluid. Eventually, the sores enlarge and grow together to form a coin-shaped patch.
These patches range in size from one inch to bigger than four inches and occur most often on the legs. They can sometimes also be found on the torso, arms, hands, and feet.
The patches of nummular dermatitis itch and burn and these symptoms can be from very mild to severe. They may itch at night which disturbs the sleep of those unlucky enough to have developed them.
The most critical problem that can develop from the patches is a staph infection. If the patches develop a yellowish crust, medical help must be sought immediately as this can become a life-threatening condition not only to the person with the sores but also to anyone who has contact with them.
Much research on nummular dermatitis has shown that people who live in cold, dry climates are at a much more increased risk of developing the disease.
There are other risk facts too such as having another type of eczema, having poor blood flow and swelling in the legs, injuries to your skin such as insect bite or contact with chemicals, and taking certain medications.
The most obvious thing to do to stop the itching of nummular dermatitis is prevention.
However, if you find you are faced with the reality of this irritating disease, then there are a few things you can do to help yourself rest more comfortably.
Keep your skin from getting scraped, cut or injured in another fashion. These injuries can make the disorder worse.
Keep your skin hydrated. Take a twenty-minute lukewarm bath or shower at least once a day and apply a moisturizer to your skin while it is still damp. This will help relieve the itching and scaling. Adding bath oil can also help but beware of oils that will further irritate your skin. You may need to speak to your dermatologist to find the one that is right for you.
There are prescription skin treatments that you can get from your dermatologist. Always be sure to use them exactly as directed. If needed, your dermatologist will prescribe an antibiotic and an oral antihistamine may help you sleep because they make you drowsy.
In severe cases of nummular dermatitis, other procedures may be necessary such as phototherapy (light therapy), medicated dressings, corticosteroids and bed rest in a cool humidified room.
Eczema Around the World
Globally 9.4% of the population will have acne sometime during their lifetime. In fact, acne is the eighth most prevalent disease in the world. Acne is the most common in teens, with boys being affected more frequently with the most serious forms.
Twenty percent of children worldwide and up to three percent of adults have some form of eczema. The largest percentage of these folks live in developing countries and in places in the world that are colder and dryer.
In the United States alone there are 31.6 million who have symptoms of eczema. This includes 17.8 million with atopic dermatitis.
Wrapping It All Up
I think it is clear, diseases of the skin are human disorders that affect all people around everywhere.
There are no cures as of this date, but research is continuing to find ways to help those who find themselves in the grips of a skin disorder.
It is vital to remember that should your skin break out in any of the diseases described in this article and does not get better on its own, you need to seek professional help.
Should you or someone in your family develop one of the many forms of skin disease there I invite you to the PatientNextDoor phone application where you can find support and information.
Don’t forget to download and utilize our free Patient Next Door app onto your smartphone. With it, you can share the healthcare journey of you and your child with people who are facing similar conditions.
As always, we here at Patient Next Door love serving you and hope you will join us in aiding others in finding resources and hope. I love writing articles to help you and your family get and remain healthy.
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are the personal views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of PatientNextDoor. Any omissions or errors are the author’s and PatientNextDoor does not assume any liability or responsibility for them.