What are rashes?
Rashes are areas of irritated or swollen skin. Some rashes are pain free, but most rashes are itchy, irritated, and uncomfortable. In more severe cases, certain types of rashes can be very painful. Each type of rash can be caused by a variety of irritants, including allergic reactions, fungal infections, bacteria, extreme weather, immune system disorders, and poor skin care. If you have rashes on your skin, it’s very important to seek medical attention. Rashes that seems small and insignificant could still become serious if left untreated.
I’m itchy! Can I scratch my rash?
Never scratch your rash, no matter how itchy it becomes. If you break open skin lesions by scratching, you run the risk of contracting a painful bacterial infection within your rash. It’s especially important not to scratch contagious rashes, because you may release fluid and unintentionally spread the condition to other parts of your body. It’s also important to remember that when you scratch, you are likely to shed tiny flakes of skin onto surrounding objects, making it more likely that you will spread your condition to others.
What type of rash do I have? What are the best treatments for rashes?
Psoriasis is the rapid buildup of rough, scaly skin that occurs when the life cycle of skin cells rapidly increases. The accumulation of dead skin cells results in thick scales and itchy, dry, inflamed patches that are sometimes painful.
Psoriasis tends to flare up unexpectedly and then subside for a short period.
For some people, psoriasis is a mild nuisance. For others, it can be disabling, affecting extensive areas of skin for long periods.
Treatment for psoriasis comes in a variety of options, from topical creams to oral medications to light therapy. Click here to learn more about psoriasis and the many forms of treatment available at LA Laser and Skin Center.
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is one of the most common skin disorders that causes rashes. Eczema is characterized by red, itchy skin. In severe cases, the skin can crack and bleed. Most often, it appears as patches on the hands, feet, ankles, neck, upper body, and limbs. It tends to flare up periodically and then subside for a time.
The first line of defense for treating eczema is to avoid skin irritants, such as harsh soaps, detergents, and lotions. Your doctor may suggest an over the counter anti-itch cream or ointment along with an additional prescription treatment. Prescription creams and ointments containing the steroid, hydrocortisone, may be prescribed to help control itching, swelling, and redness. Cortisone pills and shots are sometimes used for more severe cases. Phototherapy is another treatment for eczema, but it is only used when a patient has frequent flair ups. During phototherapy, a specialized machine is used to expose patients to a regulated amount of ultraviolet light, either UVA or UVB. Click here to learn more about eczema and the many forms of treatment available at LA Laser and Skin Center.
Christmas Tree Rash
Formally known as pityriasis rosea, Christmas tree rash is a fine, itchy, scaly rash that first appears as a single patch on the chest, abdomen or back. After the first appearance, it may spread as small patches to other parts of the body. The rash often forms a pattern resembling the outline of a Christmas tree. Flare ups usually last 4-10 weeks, but severe cases can continue for 12 weeks or longer.
Christmas Tree Rash Treatment
Medicated lotions, both over the counter and prescription, may lessen itchiness and speed up healing time. Oral antihistamines can also soothe itching. Christmas tree rashes may heal faster with exposure to ultraviolet light, and phototherapy may be used to treat more persistent outbreaks.
Contact dermatitis is triggered when the skin comes in contact with an irritant or when the skin has an allergic reaction to a specific substance it touches. When contact dermatitis is caused by a nonallergic irritant, it usually produces a dry, scaly, non-itchy rash. Irritants can include poisonous plants, cleaning products, industrial chemicals, soaps, and lotions. When triggered by an allergen, contact dermatitis produces a very itchy, red rash with bumps and blisters.
Contact Dermatitis Treatment
Treatment for contact dermatitis depends entirely on the trigger, so it greatly varies from patient to patient. Topically applied steroid creams and ointments may help soothe contact dermatitis. In severe cases, your doctor may prescribe oral corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, antihistamines to relieve itching, or antibiotics to fight a bacterial infection. In milder cases, your doctor may recommend an over the counter anti-itch cream as well as oatmeal or baking soda based bath products.
Molluscum contagiosum is an infection caused by a virus that results in benign lesions all over the body. The lesions, also known as mollusca, are small, raised white, pink, or flesh colored with a dimple or pit in the center. They often have a pearly appearance and are usually smooth and firm. In most people, the lesions range from the size of a pinhead to as large as a pencil eraser. They may become itchy, sore, red, or swollen. Mollusca may occur anywhere on the body including the face, neck, arms, legs, abdomen, and genital area, alone or in groups. The lesions are rarely found on the palms of the hands or the soles of the feet. Within 6-12 months, molluscum contagiosum typically resolves without scarring. In more severe cases, it may take as long as 4 years to completely clear. Molluscum contagiosum is highly contagious, spread from person to person contact or contact with nonliving objects that have come in contact with the disease, such as furniture, linens, clothing, towels, bathing sponges, pool equipment, and toys. It’s common for children to contract molluscum contagiosum in school, and adults often acquire the condition at the gym.
Molluscum Contagiosum Treatment
Treatment for molluscum contagiosum comes in a variety of options. Click here to learn more about molluscum contagiosum and the many forms of treatment available at LA Laser and Skin Center.
Heat rash, medically known as miliaria, occurs when sweat glands are blocked, and the sweat produced cannot get to the surface of the skin to evaporate. This causes inflammation that results in a rash. There are three types of heat rash.
- Miliaria rubra– Clusters of small, red bumps that produce a pricking or stinging sensation.
- Miliaria crystalline– Clear, fluid filled bumps. If the bumps pop or become irritated, they can sting and feel itchy. This form of heat rash often occurs with severe sunburns.
- Miliaria profunda– Larger, harder bumps that are more skin colored. This type usually occurs after frequent episodes of milder heat rash.
Heat Rash Treatment
Your doctor may prescribe hydrocortisone cream or spray to treat heat rash. You may also be prescribed antibiotics if your sweat glands become infected. Calamine lotion may alleviate symptoms. In milder cases, cool compresses and cool baths can alleviate the signs and symptoms of heat rash. You can prevent heat rash by wearing loose, lightweight clothing and avoiding excessive heat and humidity. Also avoid heavy creams and lotions that can clog pores.
Intertrigo is inflammation caused by skin-to-skin friction. It most often occurs in warm, moist areas of the body, such as the groin, between folds of skin on the abdomen, under breasts, under arms, and between toes. It may appear as a red or reddish-brown rash with cracked, crusty, raw, itchy, or oozing skin. An unappealing odor usually occurs with the condition, and the affected area is often very sensitive and painful. In many cases, a bacterial or fungal infection will develop at the site of intertrigo. The most common type of intertrigo is diaper rash, and this form is usually not as serious as intertrigo found in adults. Adults with excess areas of fat develop intertrigo more frequently due to larger areas of skin exposed to frequent friction.
Keep the affected areas as clean and dry as possible. Wear loose fitting clothing while you heal, and use a nonirritating powder to reduce skin-to-skin friction in affected areas. A barrier cream may be recommended to help protect skin from irritants. To treat intertrigo, your doctor may recommend short term use of a topical steroid to reduce inflammation. If the area is also infected, your doctor may prescribe an antifungal or antibiotic cream or ointment. To fight infection, an oral medication may also be prescribed.
Lichen planus is an inflammatory condition that affects skin all over the body as well as areas covered by a thin, moist layer of tissue called mucous membrane. Mucous membranes are found in the mouth, nose, eyelids, lungs, stomach, urinary tract, and intestines. When lichen planus occurs in mucous membranes, it forms lacy white patches. When it occurs in dry areas of the skin, lichen planus presents as purplish, itchy, flat bumps.
Lichen planus develops gradually over 2-3 months. Once fully developed, it can persist in a constant state for months or years.
Lichen Planus Treatment
Although lichen planus cannot be cured, there are many treatments available to alleviate the symptoms. Mild stinging and itching can be helped with cool compresses and aloe vera gel. A doctor may also recommend prescription strength anti-itch products or a medicated cream. In more severe cases, retinoids, steroid injections or pills, and light therapy may be prescribed.
Ringworm is a fungal infection that appears as itchy, red, scaly, expanding rings on the body. The ring grows outward as the infection spreads. Ringworm is highly contagious. The infection is spread through skin-to-skin and contaminated object contact. There are several types of ringworm.
- Tinea pedis– Commonly known as athlete’s foot. In most cases, the skin becomes white, soft and peels away between the toes. It may infect the sole of the foot resulting in peeling, scaling, itching, and blistering. One or both feet may be affected.
- Tinea cruris– Occurs in the groin area and is often called jock itch. Men are more likely to develop this form of ringworm.
- Tinea unguium– Occurs in the nails, most commonly in toenails. It is very difficult to eradicate. Often, the great toenail is the first to show signs, especially if it has been injured. The nail yellows, and after years, thickens and breaks easily. Fingernail infections are similar, but less common.
- Tinea capitis– Appears in the scalp, resulting in scaling and hair loss. It is more common in children.
- Tinea corporis- Generalized ringworm located anywhere on the body, specifically in areas not mentioned above.
Ringworm treatment requires prescription antifungal medication. Sometimes these can be administered through cream application, but more severe cases require oral medication.
Shingles, formally known as herpes zoster, is a painful, blistering condition caused by the chickenpox virus, varicella zoster. After a patient recovers from chickenpox, the virus permanently remains in the nerve tissue in an inactive form. Years later, the virus may reactivate, causing shingles.
A shingles outbreak starts with vaguely uncomfortable tingling or itching with no obvious external cause. Within several days, clusters of small blisters similar to the chickenpox rash appear in a defined area on one side of your body. You may begin to feel tingling or stabbing nerve pain. Over a few more days, the blisters break, leaving behind ulcers that dry and form crusts. Nerve pain may worse during this stage of shingles. Within about four weeks, the crusts will fall off, and the nerve pain will gradually fade. In some cases, nerve pain may persist even after shingles rashes have healed.
If treated within the first 72 hours of symptoms, a shingles outbreak can be more easily contained. If treatment begins after 72 hours, the rash may be more widespread and take longer to heal. To aggressively treat shingles, antiviral drugs will be prescribed. Your doctor may recommend over the counter pain killers to manage nerve pain. A shingles vaccine is recommended for most people age 60 or over.
Medically known as cercarial dermatitis, swimmer’s itch is a burning, itchy rash caused by an allergic reaction to a waterborne parasite that burrows into the top layer of skin. The parasite soon dies, but tiny bumps and blisters are left behind. Because swimmer’s itch is an allergic reaction, repeated exposure to infected water can increase a person’s sensitivity and result in worse symptoms with each subsequent exposure.
Swimmer’s Itch Treatment
Mild cases of swimmers itch usually do not require prescription medication. In more severe cases, treatment may include steroid cream. Lukewarm baths with colloidal oatmeal or baking soda can help relieve symptoms during healing.