Dermatology Skin Conditions

At Dermatology Affiliates we partner with you for beautiful, healthy skin. A big part of that health partnership is education, so we have created this area to help you learn about a variety of skin conditions. However, this information is not a substitute for a dermatologist’s care or medical advice.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

A

Acne

The most common skin condition in the United States, acne can lead to pimples, blackheads, whiteheads and other blemishes. In addition to the face, it can appear on the back, chest, neck, shoulders, upper arms, thighs and buttocks. There are many causes of acne and as a result many treatment options.

The whiteheads and blackheads, otherwise known as comedonal acne, are caused by plugging of the pores.  Bright red acne bumps are due to inflammation that occurs in response to clogged pores, and bacteria that live inside your pores.  Hormones also contribute to acne.

See our article: What Causes Acne?

For more information, visit the American Academy of Dermatology at www.aad.org/skin-conditions

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Acne Cysts

Acne cysts are a severe form of acne where larger, pus-filled bumps appear. These cysts can last for months, cause scarring, and be painful. Attempting to pop them can lead to a deeper infection and more inflammation.

Also see Acne entry above and our article: What Causes Acne?

For more information, visit the American Academy of Dermatology at www.aad.org/skin-conditions

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Actinic Keratosis

Considered a pre-cancer skin condition, actinic keratoses are scaly, crusty growths. They most often appear on areas of the body most exposed to the sun, such as bald scalp, face, ears, lips, backs of the hands and forearms, and shoulders.

Usually appearing quite small, actinic keratoses are often discovered by touch. They feel like sandpaper and there are often more than one. Although most actinic keratoses remain benign, some studies report that up to ten percent may become squamous cell carcinoma. The presence of actinic keratoses indicates sun damage and other types of skin cancer may appear in the same area.

For more information, visit the Skin Cancer Foundation at www.skincancer.org

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Alopecia Areata

In this condition, hair is lost in round patches due to the immune system attacking hair follicles. Alopecia areata can result in the loss of hair on the scalp and elsewhere on the body. It rarely causes total body hair loss. Nails may also be affected, and may be an early signal of the disease, with tiny pinpoint dents, white spots or lines, roughness, loss of shine or thinness.

Alopecia areata can appear at any age, even childhood. Like many other autoimmune diseases, someone’s genetics, in addition to other factors, can trigger the condition.

For more information, visit the American Academy of Dermatology at www.aad.org/skin-conditions

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Athlete’s Foot

Athlete's foot is the most common type of fungal infection. Also called tinea pedis, it develops in the moist areas between toes and other parts of the foot. Athlete's foot usually causes itching, stinging and burning. It can also cause cracking and peeling skin, excessive skin dryness on the feet, and toenails that are thick, crumbly, ragged, discolored or pulling away from the nail bed.

Athlete's foot is contagious and can often be treated with over-the-counter antifungal medications.

For more information, visit www.mayoclinic.com

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Atopic Dermatitis

Also known as eczema, atopic dermatitis often affects children during their first year. In 90 percent of people it appears by age 5. For half of patients the condition can last into adulthood with milder symptoms.

Atopic dermatitis causes itchy, dry and scaly patches to appear on the skin, often on the folds of the arms and legs. Skin can become thicker, bumpy and lighten or darken where the condition is flaring.  Constant itching and scratching can lead to skin infections.

Atopic dermatitis tends to run in families. In addition, family members may have asthma or hay fever.

See our article: Bathing Tips for Parents of Children with Eczema

For more information, visit the American Academy of Dermatology at www.aad.org/skin-conditions

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Atopic Eczema

See Atopic Dermatitis entry above, and our article: Bathing Tips for Parents of Children with Eczema

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Atypical Mole

Most people have moles that are raised bumps. Atypical moles are different from the garden variety mole. They are often flat, larger than a pencil eraser, have a non-round, irregular shape and may contain more than one color, including tans, browns, reds and pinks.

Atypical moles can be a precursor to melanoma and should be monitored for change. The chance for flat moles turning into cancer increases for people with four or more atypical moles, melanoma or a close relative with melanoma.

See our article: What to Look for When Evaluating Skin Moles

For more information, visit the American Academy of Dermatology at www.aad.org/skin-conditions

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B

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. Like other forms of skin cancer, it often appears on the most sun exposed parts of the body, such as the face, scalp, hands, arms and neck. However, it can also form on other parts of the body.

Skin cancer can look very different from person to person, even the same type. So it’s important to have a dermatologist check your skin if you notice growth, changing shape, bleeding or itching on your skin for more than two weeks.

  • This type of skin cancer often grows slowly. See a dermatologist if you notice a:Reddish patch of dry skin that won’t heal
  • Flesh-colored (or pink, red or brown) pearl-shaped lump
  • Pimple that just won’t clear
  • Sore that bleeds, heals, and then returns
  • Scar that feels waxy, or may be skin-colored, white, or yellow
  • Group of slow-growing, shiny pink or red growths, or like sores, often scaly and bleeds easily
  • Flat or sunken growth. It may feel hard, may be white or yellow

For more information, visit the American Academy of Dermatology at www.aad.org/skin-conditions

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Birth Marks

Birthmarks may be made of either vessels or pigmented cells.  They are not always visible at birth.  Moles that are bigger than a half inch are called congenital nevi or moles and should be watched for change.  Not all change is bad but a physician should be familiar with a congenital mole and be able to analyze a change that occurs in it. 

Birthmarks made from vessels (usually reddish or bluish) seldom cause problems unless they grow rapidly in an infant.  They can often be treated with a laser if they are unattractive. Some pigmented marks are not moles and show up when a child is young.  These pigmentary alterations are seldom a problem and the pediatrician will watch them for change.  One common type of birthmark in this category is a Cafe au Lait macule.

For more information, visit www.mayoclinic.com

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Blackheads

Blackheads, otherwise known as comedonal acne, are caused by plugging of the pores.  In order to unplug the pores and prevent this from occurring, dermatologists often prescribe a group of medications called retinoids.  These are usually applied in a small amount at bedtime and are excellent at clearing the comedones.

Also see Acne entry above and our article: What Causes Acne?

For more information, visit the American Academy of Dermatology at www.aad.org/skin-conditions

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C

Congenital Mole

Typically moles develop after birth. But about 1 percent of people are born with a mole, called a congenital mole. These moles vary in size, and increases a person’s risk of developing skin cancer.

Also see Atypical Mole above, and our article: What to Look for When Evaluating Skin Moles

For more information, visit the American Academy of Dermatology at www.aad.org/skin-conditions

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D

Dry Skin

Dry skin is common and often using a moisturizer helps repair dry skin. However, extremely dry skin can be a condition called dermatitis and may require a dermatologist’s help. Dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin that can cause itchy rashes or patches of dry, irritated skin.

Symptoms of dry skin include rough, scaly or flaking skin, itching, gray or ashy skin on people with dark skin, or cracks in skin, which may bleed. Cracks in dry skin can allow germs to get into the skin. These germs may cause an infection, of which red, sore spots may be a sign.

For more information, visit the American Academy of Dermatology at www.aad.org/skin-conditions

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E

Eczema

See Atopic Dermatitis entry above, and our article: Bathing Tips for Parents of Children with Eczema

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H

Hair Loss

There are many causes of hair loss, including genetics, stress, childbirth, and some diseases and medical treatments. Even the way hair is styled can lead to hair loss. Hair loss can be seen as a gradual thinning, bald patches, or complete baldness.

The most common cause of hair loss is hereditary hair loss, which affects 80 million people in the United States. Often called “male-pattern baldness,” it often affects women too.

Dermatologists can treat many causes of hair loss with medications and procedures. Often the first step in treating hair loss is figuring out the cause.

Also see our Alopecia Areata entry above.

For more information, visit the American Academy of Dermatology at www.aad.org/skin-conditions

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Hives

Hives are welts that can appear on any part of the skin, including eyelids. They often itch and can vary widely in size. They may even connect to form larger hives. In severe cases, the throat and airway can swell, making breathing or swallowing difficult. This is life threatening and the person needs to treated quickly.

An individual hive often goes away within 24 hours. However, new ones may appear in a cycle that usually lasts less than 6 weeks. These shorter hive appearances are often the results of an allergy, but may have other causes.

Longer lasting hives are called chronic hives.

For more information, visit the American Academy of Dermatology at www.aad.org/skin-conditions

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L

Lichen Planus

Lichen planus is a skin disease that causes shiny, firm or reddish purple bumps to appear. Common areas include the wrist, lower back, ankles, nails and inside the mouth. In rare cases it appears on the scalp. The condition often clears within 2 years, but can reappear in 20 percent of cases.

When lichen planus appears on the skin, it can cause thick itchy patches of scaly skin. Inside the mouth, it often appears on the cheeks, tongue, lips and gums. Lichen planus in the mouth may lead to patches of tiny white dots and lines, redness and swelling and gum peeling. Dermatologists can treat lichen planus to minimize symptoms.

For more information, visit the American Academy of Dermatology at www.aad.org/skin-conditions

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M

Melanoma

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that often appears in a changing mole or as a new mole. It is important to know what moles you have, where they are and if they are changing.

When caught early, melanoma is often curable. However, it grows quickly and can spread to other parts of the body. As a result, melanoma can be deadly.

See a dermatologist if you notice a:

  • Mole on the skin that is growing, changing shape or changing color
  • Mole that looks scaly, oozes or bleeds
  • New flat, dark spot on the skin that looks like a mole, but grows quickly
  • Pain, itch or bleeding in a new spot on the skin
  • Streak (usually brown or black) underneath a fingernail or toenail
  • Bruise on the foot that does not heal

For more information, visit the American Academy of Dermatology at www.aad.org/skin-conditions

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Melasma

Melasma is a skin condition triggered by sun exposure that causes brown to gray-brown patches. In most cases it appears on the cheeks, bridge of the nose, forehead, chin and above the upper lip. But it can also appear on the forearms, neck and other areas that are exposed to the sun.

Hormones may also trigger melasma, which often affects pregnant women and rarely affects men.

Sun protection helps, so sunscreen should be applied frequently. However sunscreen alone may not be enough. A variety of treatment options exist for melasma.

For more information, visit the American Academy of Dermatology at www.aad.org/skin-conditions

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Mohs Surgery

Mohs surgery is considered one of the most effective techniques for removing basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, which are the two most common skin cancers.

With Mohs surgery, a thin layer of skin tissue is removed and examined under a microscope for the presence of cancer. This process is repeated until the skin tissue is found to be cancer free. This allows the surgeon to know more accurately how much skin should be removed at the time of the procedure.

The surgery does not require general anesthesia and can be done in half a day or less.

For more information, visit the Skin Cancer Foundation at www.skincancer.org

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Moles

See Atypical Mole and Congenital Mole above, and our article: What to Look for When Evaluating Skin Moles

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Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is a contagious virus that causes pink or flesh colored bumps to appear on the skin. The bumps often appear on the face, neck, armpits, arms, and hands, in addition to other areas of the body.

Scratching the bumps may spread them to other parts of the body. As long as the bumps appear, the virus is contagious. It can spread easily, such as by sharing a towel or clothing. It can appear 7 weeks after exposure and sometimes longer.

In a person with a healthy immune system, it often clears up on its own in 2 to 4 months. However children, particularly those with eczema, and people with weakened immune systems may not be able to fight the virus on their own, and may have many more bumps.

For more information, visit the American Academy of Dermatology at www.aad.org/skin-conditions

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P

Poison Ivy

The itchy rash from poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac is caused by oil found in these plants. Typically the reaction doesn’t start until 12 to 72 hours after exposure to the plant’s oil.

In most people the reaction goes away within a couple of weeks. But if the reaction is serious, such as large swelling of the face or swelling that closes the eyes, a doctor should be seen right away.

If you’ve been in contact with poison ivy, wash your clothes and anything that might have touched the plant. If you have a rash, apply hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion, and keep your skin cool with cloths or cool showers. Keeping your fingernails clean will help prevent an infection from the scratching.

For more information, visit the American Academy of Dermatology at www.aad.org/skin-conditions

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Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the immune system sends faulty messages that speed the growth of skin cells. This faster growth causes patches of extra skin to appear.

There are five forms of psoriasis, including plaque psoriasis, the most common type, in which raised red patches of skin are covered with a silvery buildup of dead skin. Even though there’s no cure for psoriasis, there are medications and treatments options to control it.  Psoriasis, the most common autoimmune disease in the United States, can occur on any part of the body.

For more information, visit the American Academy of Dermatology at www.aad.org/skin-conditions

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R

Rosacea

Rosacea causes, among other things, redness on the cheeks, nose, chin or forehead, or small visible blood vessels on the face. It often runs in families, or family members may also have severe acne.

There are four sub-types of rosacea, each with their own set of symptoms. The first type causes redness on the face and sensitive, swollen skin. The second type causes acne-like breakouts, including raised patches of skin. The rare third type causes thickening skin with a bumpy texture. The fourth type affects the eyes.

There are variety of options for managing rosacea, including medical and laser treatments. An important step dermatologists take is to discover individual triggers.

For more information, visit the American Academy of Dermatology at www.aad.org/skin-conditions

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S

Seborrheic Keratoses

These non-cancerous, waxy growths often start as small, rough bumps and then slowly thicken and can develop an uneven surface. They can be hard to distinguish from skin cancer, so it’s best to see a dermatologist to make sure.

They are often tan or brown, but can range in color from white to black. Seborrheic keratoses can appear on various parts of the body, except for palms of the hand or the soles of feet. They are not painful, but may itch.

Typically seborrheic keratoses appear in middle-aged and older adults, and can run in families. There are a variety of treatment options to remove seborrheic keratoses.

For more information, visit the American Academy of Dermatology at www.aad.org/skin-conditions

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Shingles

Shingles is a reactivation of the virus that causes chickenpox, resulting in a painful blistering rash. It is most common in older adults. However, anyone who has had chickenpox can get shingles, since the virus stays in the body.

The earliest sign of shingles may be that a small area on one side of the body starts to burn, itch, tingle or feel very sensitive. This may come and go over 1 to 3 days. Next a rash appears in this area that soon becomes a group of clear blisters. It may take 2 to 3 weeks for them to scab over and heal. These blisters are often associated with pain which can be bad enough to require painkillers. Shingles is contagious until the blisters heal.

A vaccine, which can prevent shingles, is available to people aged 50 and older. An anti-viral medicine can make shingles symptoms milder and shorter, and is most effective when taken within 3 days of the rash.

For more information, visit the American Academy of Dermatology at www.aad.org/skin-conditions

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Skin Cancer

See our entries on Basal Cell Carcinoma, Melanoma and Mohs Surgery above and Squamous Cell Carcinoma below.

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Skin Infections

Skin Infections may be bacterial, fungal or viral.  Common viral infections are fever blisters and warts. Common bacterial infections are impetigo and folliculitis.  Common fungal infections are athlete’s foot and ring worm.  All of these can be treated with the appropriate medication.

For more information, visit the American Academy of Dermatology at www.aad.org/skin-conditions

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Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is a common type of skin cancer that is often reddish in color.

Like other forms of skin cancer, it often appears on the most sun exposed parts of the body, such as the face, scalp, hands, arms and neck. However, it can also form on other parts of the body as well, including inside the mouth and on the genitals. It can also appear on skin that has been badly burned or heavily exposed to radiation, such as X-Rays, or exposed to strong chemicals.

Squamous cell carcinoma can be deadly when left untreated since it can grow deeply and spread to other parts of the body. See a dermatologist if you notice:

  • Hard (scaly or crusty) reddish bump, patch, or pearl-shaped growth
  • Open sore that itches and bleeds; it can heal and return
  • Scaly patch on the lip; skin on the lip can get thick

For more information, visit the American Academy of Dermatology at www.aad.org/skin-conditions

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T

Tinea Versicolor

Tinea Versicolor occurs when the yeast naturally living on our skin grows out of control. It is a common skin disease in tropical and subtropical areas. Yeast can overgrow on the skin due to hot, humid weather, lots of sweating, oily skin or a weakened immune system.
Tinea versicolor often appears like a discoloration on the chest or back, with flat spots that are lighter or darker than other parts of your skin. They can be dry or scaly and may itch. As the yeast grows the spots may combine to form larger patches.

There are many options dermatologists have to treat tinea versicolor.

For more information, visit the American Academy of Dermatology at www.aad.org/skin-conditions

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V

Vitiligo

With vitiligo skin loses color and often large patches of lighter skin appear.  Even though it usually affects the skin, vitiligo can develop wherever there is pigment, including the hair and eyes. Although there is no cure for vitiligo, there are treatments and procedures that can help to stop pigmentation loss and even restore some skin color. 

For more information, visit the American Academy of Dermatology at www.aad.org/skin-conditions

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W

Warts

Warts are non-cancerous skin growths that appear when the human papillomavirus (HPV) infects the top layer of the skin. This virus is contagious, so warts can spread by contact with the wart or something that touched the wart.

Cuts and damage to the skin makes you more likely to get warts. Other people more likely to get warts are children and teens, people who bite their nails or pick at hangnails and people with a weakened immune system.

The virus does not get in the blood stream.  It is treated by getting rid of the warts.  Warts are very frustrating because it may take up to 25 treatments to destroy the virus and they frequently recur. There are numerous treatment options for warts.

For more information, visit the American Academy of Dermatology at www.aad.org/skin-conditions

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