A skin rash is a change in the skin’s color or texture. Simple rashes are called dermatitis, which means the skin has become inflamed or swollen. Some skin rashes are independent symptoms, but many cause itching, burning or other discomfort. There are many reasons that an individual may develop a skin rash.
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Types Of Skin Rash
A skin rash can occur for a variety of reasons. Many rashes look similar to one another, which can causes them to be difficult to diagnose. Some common skin rashes include the following:
Contact dermatitis is caused by an irritating substance. In some cases, the substance is universally irritating, like certain chemicals. In others, the irritation is the result of an allergen that irritates only individuals with particular sensitivities. Plants like poison ivy and insect bites can cause a rash in some individuals.
Allergy Skin Rash
Apart from contact dermatitis, patients may develop allergic rashes, such as hives, as a reaction to ingested allergens. Certain food stuffs and medications can trigger hives or other rashes in sensitive individuals.
Seborrheic dermatitis occurs when the skin forms red, scaly, flaking patches. Though most common on the face and on the head, the condition can also be evident in the outer ear, on the eyebrows or eyelashes, forehead, sides of the nose, or chest and upper back.
Viral Or Bacterial Skin Rash
Other skin conditions, like eczema, psoriasis, or impetigo can frequently cause a rash. Each may be diagnosed by its pattern, whether the rash is flat or pustular, and on what part of the body it occurs, although distinguishing the rashes may at times be difficult.
Many systemic diseases have a skin rash as one of their symptoms. These include disorders often characterized as childhood diseases, like measles, chicken pox, rubella and scarlet fever, shingles, autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, and some sexually transmitted diseases, such as syphilis.
Heat rash is a common ailment in infants, but can occur in individuals of any age, causing small red spots or bumps which may be itchy. This skin rash develops when the sweat ducts in the skin are clogged, interfering with the normal process of perspiration. Too much exposure to the sun to the ultraviolet light of tanning salons may also cause a rash on affected areas.
Under certain circumstances, some individuals may develop rashes from stress alone, without another precipitating cause.
Treatment Of Skin Rashes
When a skin rash is caused by an underlying condition or disease process, the patient must be treated for the pervasive disorder. When a rash is the result of a bacterial infection, it is treated with antibiotics. When the skin rash stems from a virus, it may be treated with antiviral medication. Allergic rashes are normally treated with antihistamines and, when more severe, with corticosteroids. In many cases, avoidance of contact with the irritating substance or material may be sufficient to help the rash abate.
Almost all rashes that cause itching can be treated symptomatically with one or more of the following: antihistamines, soothing lotions like Calamine, topical or oral corticosteroids, baths with colloidal oatmeal, moisturizing creams or cold compresses. Wearing soft, loose clothing and taking over-the-counter pain relievers may also provide relief.
Could My Rash Go Away on Its Own?
Often, rashes do clear up on their own without medical intervention. In the case of a benign rash, such as one caused by heat or a contact irritant, you might treat your skin at home with antihistamine medication, calamine lotion, or oatmeal baths. It's also important to know when your rash may be the sign of something more significant.
Schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor or a dermatologist if your rash occurs alongside additional symptoms, such as:
- The rash is spreading
- Crusting or oozing
- The appearance of bruising beneath the rash
- The rash has a circular shape
Whether or not you experience any of these symptoms, if your rash does not improve or go away after about a week of home treatments, schedule a consultation with a doctor.
Are Hives a Kind of Rash?
Hives are very commonly mistaken for a rash. The two conditions look similar enough for this to happen. However, there are ways to differentiate. Knowing the difference between a rash and hives can help you determine the best course of care. Typically, hives involve raised bumps on the skin. These can vary in size. We refer to them as wheals; some people call them welts. Hives usually occur when you've been exposed to an allergen. In an allergic reaction, hives can develop anywhere on the body. Common areas are the back and arms. Different than hives, a rash often develops in the area that has had direct contact with an allergen or irritant. Rashes are usually blotchy, itchy, and flat. However, some rashes do become raised and come to resemble hives. This is why it can be advantageous to contact a doctor for a thorough examination of your skin if redness and itching last longer than a week.
Could My Rash Actually be Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a relatively common condition, affecting over seven million people in America. One of the things that make it challenging is how much it can resemble a simple rash. The most common form of psoriasis, plaque psoriasis, can cause itching and redness. Usually, though, the skin eruptions are localized around the knee or elbow area. The scalp can also be affected. If your rash looks scaly, whether you've developed small spots or larger areas of irritation, it's wise to have your doctor examine your skin. Psoriasis is very treatable and, with a consultation and examination, your dermatologist can make proper recommendations to help resolve uncomfortable symptoms.