Acne is the term for the blocked pores (blackheads and whiteheads), pimples, and deeper lumps (cysts or nodules) that can appear typically on the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders and upper arms. Seventeen million Americans currently have acne, making it the most common skin disease in the country. While it affects mostly teenagers, and almost all teenagers have some form of acne, adults of any age can have it. Acne is not life-threatening, but it can cause physical disfigurement (scarring) and emotional distress. Treatment for acne varies depending on the type and severity of lesions, as well as the patient’s skin type, age and lifestyle. Topical and/or oral medication can be used to improve acne.
Rosacea is a chronic skin disease that causes redness and swelling on the face. It is often associated with broken or dilated blood vessels and/or acne-like lesions or nodules. The scalp, neck, ears, chest, back and/or eyes may also be affected. Symptoms range from red pimples, lines and visible blood vessels to dry or burning skin and a tendency to flush easily. Many people find that the emotional effects of rosacea – such as low self-confidence and avoidance of social situations – are more difficult to handle than the physical ones. Patients often complain of increased redness of the face with certain “triggers” such as sun, stress, spicy foods, caffeine, or alcoholic beverages. Avoidance of these triggers for patients with rosacea is recommended. There are topical and oral medications that can improve rosacea. Although it can affect anyone, rosacea typically appears in light-skinned, light-haired adults aged 30-50. It is not yet known what causes rosacea and the disease is not curable, although it can be treated with topical and oral medications, laser therapy or laser surgery.
One of the most common skin conditions, psoriasis is an inflammatory condition of the skin that affects over 2% of the US population. Psoriasis is characterized by pink, scaly areas of skin (often on the elbows, knees, and scalp, but can occur on other parts of the body as well). Occasionally, patients will complain of itchiness associated with their psoriasis. The condition varies in severity, with milder forms responding well to topical medications and more severe forms requiring oral or injectable medications.
Warts are non-cancerous skin growths, caused by a virus, that occur in the top layer of the skin. They occur in people of all ages and transmission is usually by direct contact. Typically they are a flesh-colored, raised, calloused growth seen on the hands and feet; however, they can occur anywhere on the body. Treatment options include salicylic acid preparations, prescription creams, in-office topical solutions and cryotherapy or laser surgery.
Eczema is a group of inflamed skin conditions that results in chronic itchy rashes. About 15 million people in the U.S. suffer from some form of eczema, including 10-20 percent of all infants. Symptoms vary from person to person but often include dry, red, itchy patches on the skin which break out in rashes when scratched.
Objects and conditions that trigger itchy eczema outbreaks may include rough or coarse materials touching the skin, excessive heat or sweating, soaps, detergents, disinfectants, fruit and meat juices, dust mites, animal saliva and danders, upper respiratory infections and stress.
Treatment involves the restriction of scratching, use of moisturizing lotions or creams, cold compresses and nonprescription anti-inflammatory corticosteroid creams and ointments. If this proves insufficient, physicians may prescribe corticosteroid medication, antibiotics to combat infection, or sedative antihistamines.
Skin cancer refers to the abnormal, uncontrolled growth of skin cells. One in five people will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Risk factors include pale skin, family history of melanoma, being over 40 years old, and regular sun exposure. Fortunately, skin cancer is almost always curable if detected and treated early.
The most common skin cancers are:
- Basal cell carcinoma – 80-85% of all skin cancers. Basal cell carcinoma affects cells in the lowest layer of the epidermis.
- Squamous cell carcinoma – 10% of all skin cancers. Squamous cell carcinoma affects cells in the middle layer of the epidermis.
- Melanoma – 5% of all skin cancers. Melanoma is a rare but very dangerous type of skin cancer. It is the leading cause of death from skin disease.
Skin cancers vary in shape, color, size and texture, so any new, changed or otherwise suspicious growths or rashes should be examined immediately by a physician. Early intervention is essential to preventing the cancer from spreading. Learn the ABCDEs of Melanoma.
Full-Body Skin Exams
A full body skin exam is performed to screen for skin cancer. Typically, the doctor looks for any unusual lesions on the skin, such as skin cancer or atypical moles. If a suspicious lesion is detected on examination, a biopsy (skin sample) may be taken for microscopic evaluation.
Learn how to do your own skin cancer self-examination. Checking your skin means taking note of all the spots on your body, from moles to freckles to age spots. Remember, some moles are black, red, or even blue. If you see any kind of change on one of your spots, you should have a dermatologist check it out. Learn more at Self-Exam.