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.
Do Not Scratch the 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.
Types of Skin Rashes
Psoriasis is the rapid buildup of rough, scaly skin that occurs when the life cycle of skin cells rapidly increases. The build up of dead skin cells can cause the area or patch to become inflamed and painful as a result.
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 Skin And Cancer Institute.
Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, consists of red, itchy skin. In severe cases, the skin can crack and bleed. Patches can occur on various parts of the body such as the feet, neck, hands, legs, and limbs. Eczema is known by its nature to flare up and then subside.
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 Skin And Cancer Institute.
Contact Dermatitis, on the other hand, is a rash with a direct known cause. The rash can result either from contact with an allergen or an irritant. Irritant contact dermatitis can involve contact with harsh cleaning products or even detergents. The rash that results would be dry, and non-itchy. An allergic reaction triggering the dermatitis would on the other hand, produce an very itchy red rash with bumps or potentially blisters. Some allergens which could trigger such a painful reaction and skin condition include latex, rubber, and poison ivy.
Christmas Tree Rash
Formally known as pityriasis rosea, Christmas tree rash appears initially as a single patch on the chest, abdomen or back but then spreads into smaller 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.
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.
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. Oral corticosteroids, antihistamines or antibiotics may be prescribed by your doctor. In milder cases, your doctor may recommend an over the counter anti-itch cream as well as oatmeal or baking soda based bath products.
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.
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. A topical steroid may be used to treat and reduce inflammation. If there is an infection, an antifungal or antibiotic cream or ointment must be used and 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.
Though not curable, treatments do exist to alleviate the pain. 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 an infection caused by a fungus which spreads outward in a ring. Hence, the name ringworm. It als oconsists of itchy, red and scaly rings on the body. 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 the result of the chickenpox virus, varicella zoster. After a patient recovers from chickenpox, the virus permanently remains in the nerve tissue in an inactive form. If the virus reactivates which it can, shingles will result.
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. When the blisters break, dry ulcers are left behind. Nerve pain may worse during this stage of shingles. Around a month later, the crust will fall off causing the pain to dissipate slowly. 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 caused by a parasite born in the water that attached to the outermost layer of skin. The parasite causes an allergic reaction to occur leaving a burning, painful rash with bumps and blisters.
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.