Definition and Overview
Dermatology is the medical specialty that deals with diseases and conditions that affect the skin, hair, scalp, and nails. A larger part of dermatology, however, is focused on the problems and treatments of skin. This is because the skin, being the most extensive organ of the body, is more prone to a wider range of conditions and diseases. People of all ages, from newborns to the elderly, are all susceptible to skin problems, which come in many different types, from rare to common problems, and from chronic to brief ones.
Different types of skin diseases
There are various of skin diseases, we are going to discuss four types of skin conditions:
- Chronic diseases
- Acute skin problems
- Skin infections
- Skin discolorations
Chronic skin problems
The type of skin problems that require the most dermatological attention is the chronic type, such as:
Acne – Acne is a chronic condition characterized by the uncontrolled growth of pimples or swollen and tender inflammations on the skin. Acne most commonly affects the facial skin, although it can also affect the chest, back, upper arms, and shoulders. Acne is known to be caused by a genetic predisposition, as well as hormonal imbalances. Stress is not considered as a cause, but it is a common trigger that can initiate outbreaks or aggravate the condition. There is a wide range of acne treatment options. However, for chronic acne, it is best to consult a dermatologist who can provide regular and continuous treatment.
Eczema – Eczema is a medical condition in which the skin becomes irritated and easily inflamed. There are different types of eczema, the most common of which is atopic dermatitis; with atopic meaning it is caused by a hereditary tendency to develop such conditions. Eczema is characterized by an itchy rash followed by the drying, thickening, and scaling of the affected skin. Aside from a genetic tendency, it is believed to be caused by the immune system overreacting to an irritant as well. Flare-ups can be triggered by rough materials, extreme temperatures, chemicals, and illnesses such as colds and upper respiratory infections.
Psoriasis – This is a skin disorder that causes thick red patches with silver scales to develop on the surface of the skin. It is a chronic condition that may begin in early adulthood and will thus need to be managed throughout a person's life; in some cases, however, the symptoms disappear for long periods then suddenly come back for a brief period. If you have a rash that does not seem to heal, see a dermatologist as it is the first symptom of psoriasis. In many known cases, psoriasis is caused by an imbalance in the immune system that causes inflammation and results in the creation of new skin cells at an abnormally faster rate of 3 to 4 days instead of the normal rate of 28 to 30 days. Outbreaks can be triggered by infections, cuts, and scrapes, or emotional stress. Treatment usually involves a combination of topical steroid or retinoid creams, moisturizers to relieve dryness, light therapy, and biologic treatments.
Rosacea – Rosacea is a common facial skin problem characterized by redness on the nose, chin, cheeks, and forehead areas. In severe cases, it can affect the eyes or spread to the chest, neck, and back. Due to the visibility of the blood vessels in reddened areas, it is believed that rosacea may be due to an abnormality in the blood vessels or the connective tissues under the skin although other theories suggest that it may be just a fungal skin reaction or a psychological effect. Common symptoms include frequent flushing of the skin, persistent redness, visible blood vessels, and growth of pimples.
Acute skin problems
Acute skin problems refer to skin conditions that occur briefly and suddenly but cause severe symptoms. The most common acute skin problems are:
- Cold sores
- Hair loss
- Corns and calluses
- Ingrown hair
- Sebaceous cysts
Skin infections are reactions to bacteria, fungi, and viral irritants. Common bacterial infections that affect the skin are carbuncles, boils, cysts, abscesses, leprosy, Staph infection, and cellulitis. Fungal skin infections include ringworm, Athlete's Foot, yeast infection, fungal nail infections, and Sporotrichosis. Common viral infections, on the other hand, include shingles, chicken pox, and Molluscum Contagiosum.
Dermatologists also deal with skin discolorations such as birthmarks, moles, freckles, and skin tags. These are patches or spots on the skin that differ in color. In many cases, discolorations are inborn. However, they may also develop later in life.
Most of the time, birthmarks, moles, and freckles do not require medical attention. However, in some cases, either due to their size, positioning, or other symptoms felt by the patient, a dermatologist may intervene.
Common causes of skin discolorations are genetics and exposure to the sun. Commonly used treatments include cryosurgery or freezing and removing, electrosurgery or burning and removing, and laser treatments.
When should you see a Dermatologist
If you have severe acne or you keep on getting pimple outbreaks, or if you have rashes, redness, or scaly patches on your skin that do not go away, consult a dermatologist as you may be suffering from a chronic skin condition that requires long-term treatment.
If you suffer from any of the acute skin problems mentioned above, you should see a dermatologist to seek for a more efficient and appropriate treatment. Although some home remedies may work, proper medical treatment can keep these acute problems from coming back.
If you experience swelling, pain, itching, and rashes, or find bumps or lumps on your skin, have the affected areas checked by a dermatologist to determine whether it requires treatment. Proper distinction among viral, bacterial, and fungal infections helps resolve the problems safely.
If you have a mole or skin discoloration that is too big or is in a location where it causes some disruption, if a new mole or discoloration appears, or if you notice any changes in existing moles or skin tags, such as darkening in color or growing in size, it is best to have it checked by a dermatologist. Moles that are disruptive due to size and location can be surgically removed. Some moles, however, especially those that appear after age 30 or look different from normal moles, may be signs of illness. Also, consult a dermatologist immediately if a mole becomes painful to touch or starts itching, oozing, or bleeding.
With proper medical attention, skin problems and diseases can be safely managed for your health, safety, and comfort.
- American Academy of Dermatology: “What is Eczema?”
- National Psoriasis Foundation: “Psoriasis.”
- Merck Manual Home Edition: “Folliculitis and Skin Abscesses.”
- Chambers H. (2014). “Pharmacology and the Treatment of Complicated Skin and Skin-Structure Infections.” The New England Journal of Medicine.