Click Your Way to Healthier Skin

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Click Your Way to Healthier Skin

Women's Health
Your Skin From Head To Toe
Click Your Way to Healthier Skin
Click Your Way to Healthier Skin
Find out about common skin diseases in an easy to follow format.
InteliHealth Medical Content

Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School


Your Skin from Head to Toe

Click Your Way to Healthier Skin

Actinic Keratosis
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Contact Dermatitis
Herpes Simplex
Malignant Melanoma
Poison Ivy
Seborrheic Dermatitis
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Tinea Versicolor

Psoriasis Psoriasis

What to look for: Slow-growing rounded or oval patches of skin, usually red and covered with a silvery or gray crust or scale.
Cause: Immune cells accumulate in skin and cause inflammation and abnormal growth of skin cells.
Where on the body: Elbows, knees, scalp or near the buttocks.
Prevention: No prevention.
Treatment: Many treatments are available. Over-the-counter topicals include tar and salicylic acid preparations. Prescription topicals include corticosteroid creams and ointments, vitamin D-related ointment and vitamin A-related gel. Oral therapies for severe psoriasis include methotrexate, an oral retinoid and cyclosporine. The newest therapies for severe psoriasis are the "biologics," medicines including alefacept (Amevive), etanercept (Enbrel), infliximab (Remicade) and efalizumab (Raptiva). Light therapy is also available; ultraviolet light can be combined with psoralen applied to the skin or taken by mouth.
More details on Psoriasis

Seborrhea Seborrheic Dermatitis

What to look for: Scaling, flaky skin and redness that may be itchy or uncomfortable.
Cause: Inflammation of the skin where oil glands are the most dense.
Where on the body: Scalp, eyebrows, eyelids, forehead, nose creases, outer ear canal, chest, underarms, groin, skin creases under the breasts or skin between the buttocks.
Prevention: Cannot be prevented, but once it is brought under control, further recurrences can usually be prevented or minimized.
Treatment: Many treatments are available, including skin cleansing and avoidance of greasy ointments or creams. For the scalp, use shampoo containing selenium sulfide, ketoconazole, coal tar or salicylic acid. For other skin areas, hydrocortisone or anti-yeast cream or lotion, such as clotrimazole, may be rubbed directly into patches of seborrheic dermatitis.
More details on Seborrhea.

Acne Acne

What to look for: Whiteheads, blackheads and red or pus-filled bumps (pimples).
Cause: The skin's sebaceous (oil gland) follicles are blocked by sticky cells that are not being shed normally, trapping the sebum produced by the sebaceous glands. This is what causes the whiteheads and blackheads. Next, the blocked, sebum-filled follicles provide a favorable environment for multiplication of the bacteria normally found in these follicles. This in turn triggers inflammation, redness and pimple formation. Acne affects about 80 percent of adolescents.
Where on the body: Face; also on chest, back, upper arms and shoulders.
Prevention: None. Acne develops to some degree in most people and is a normal part of maturing hormonally.
Treatment: Very gentle cleansing. Over-the-counter topicals include salicylic acid washes and benzoyl peroxide gels. Prescription topicals include antibiotics and retinoids. More serious cases are treated with oral antibiotics, isotretinoin, hormones for women or prescription antibiotics or creams containing a vitamin A derivative.
More details on Acne.

Actinic Karatosis Actinic Keratosis

What to look for: Scaly spots, about the size of a nickel or dime or even smaller.
Cause: Exposure to UV radiation from sun.
Where on the body: Chronically sun-exposed skin, i.e., the face, ears, back of hands, upper chest and back, particularly in fair-skinned individuals.
Prevention: Avoid unprotected exposure to the sun. Wear hats, clothing, and a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
Treatment: Caution — Actinic keratoses are precancerous growths that can progress to skin cancer. They should be removed in a doctor's office by scraping or by freezing with liquid nitrogen. Alternatively, a patient may apply a prescription cream containing 5-fluorouracil (Fluoroplex, Efudex) for about a month.
More details on Actinic Keratosis.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

What to look for: Small bump, smooth or waxy, and whitish to pink in color. May resemble a pimple, but fails to clear up after a few weeks. Could become an ulcer or sore as it grows.
Cause: Exposure to UV radiation from sun.
Where on the body: Most often on face, ears, neck, back, arms or legs, especially in fair-skinned people.
Prevention: Avoid unprotected sun exposure. Wear hats, clothing, and sunscreen with an SPF factor of 30 or more.
Treatment: Surgical removal, with a greater than 95 percent cure rate.
More details on Basal Cell Carcinoma.

Malignant Melanoma

What to look for: A new mole or changes to an existing mole, such as becoming irregularly shaped, becoming darker or developing different colors, bleeding, or changing in appearance from your other moles.
Cause: Not completely known, but genetics and excessive exposure to UV radiation from sunlight play major roles.
Where on the body: Most often on upper backs of men and women, or on the legs of women. However, may occur anywhere on the body, even in areas never exposed to the sun, such as the soles of the feet or underneath the bathing suit area.
Prevention: Avoid unprotected exposure to the sun. Sunburn before the age of 18 increases the risk of melanoma. Wear a hat, sunglasses and clothing, and use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Have regular skin exams.
Treatment: Warning — requires immediate surgical removal. May require chemotherapy if it has spread.
More details on Malignant Melanoma.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

What to look for: Scaly, crusty or wart-like bump, usually between the size of a pea and a chestnut.
Cause: Exposure to UV radiation from sun.
Where on the body: Most often on the rim of the ear, face, lips and mouth, neck, bald scalp, back of the hands, back, arms, legs, and upper chest
Prevention: Avoid unprotected exposure to sun. Wear hats, clothing, and use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or greater.
Treatment: 95 percent cure rate with surgical treatment.
More details on Squamous Cell Carcinoma.

Contact Dermatitis Contact Dermatitis / Poison Ivy

What to look for: A patch of itchy, red, bumpy skin. In severe cases, there will be blisters, weeping, oozing, flaking and intense itching. Persists for two to three weeks, and new areas may continue to pop up over the next five to 10 days.
Cause: Contact with an allergy-producing substance, particularly oil from the poison ivy plant.
Where on the body: Any area that comes in contact with the allergy-producing substance. In the case of poison ivy, most often found on hands, feet, legs, arms or face.
Prevention: Identify and avoid the offending chemical. If contact is made with poison ivy, flush area thoroughly with cool water. Then wash with soap.
Treatment: Cool showers or lukewarm baths with oatmeal or baking soda solution. Oral antihistamines to reduce itching. Over-the-counter skin-cooling agents such as Sarna lotion or calamine lotion can be helpful. Avoid topical antihistamines. In more serious cases, prescription oral corticosteroids such as prednisone.
More details on Contact Dermatitis

Herpes Herpes Simplex

What to look for: Blisters that may break, forming open sores, referred to as "cold sores" or fever blisters.
Cause: Infection with herpes simplex virus.
Where on the body: On the lips, mouth or nose. When sexually transmitted, blisters may be found on genitals or buttocks.
Prevention: Avoid kissing anyone with cold sores. Avoid unprotected intercourse, in general, but particularly when genital herpes sores are present. Antiviral drugs can reduce frequency and severity of outbreaks.
Treatment: Keep area clean and dry. For fever blisters on mouth, no treatment is usually used, but topical antiviral creams are available. In serious cases, and for genital herpes, antiviral medications, including acyclovir, famciclovir and valacyclovir, may be prescribed.
More details on Herpes Simplex Infection.

Rosacea Rosacea

What to look for: Persistent redness of the nose and cheeks, which may resemble sunburn or persistent blushing. Red bumps may appear, as well as tiny blood vessels, appearing as red, thin lines.
Cause: Unknown.
Where on the body: Nose, cheeks, forehead and chin.
Prevention: Reduce severity by using a daily sunblock lotion with an SPF of 30 or greater. Also avoid anything that makes you flush, such as hot beverages, alcohol, spicy foods, stress, extreme heat or cold, and irritating skin products.
Treatment: Topical and oral antibiotics. Laser treatment for severe cases of dilated blood vessels.
More details on Rosacea.

Tinea-Versicolor Tinea Versicolor

What to look for: Oval, scaly spots or patches on the skin, usually pale, pink, or tan in color.
Cause: Yeast infection.
Where on the body: Upper chest, back and neck.
Prevention: No prevention.
Treatment: Over-the-counter dandruff shampoos with selenium sulfide. Prescription-strength antifungal creams, lotions and shampoos. Prescription oral antifungal medications in persistent cases.
Tinea-PedisMore details on Tinea Versicolor.

Other fungal infections:
Jock Itch (tinea cruris) , causes itching and irritation in the groin area of men.
Athlete's Foot (tinea pedis) , causes itching, cracking and peeling of foot skin, especially between toes.
Ringworm (tinea corporis) , begins as a small, red, pimple-like sore, expanding to a scaly, often red, half dollar patch of skin, usually on the arm.
Treatment: Prescription strength antifungal creams. In severe cases prescription oral antifungal medications may be prescribed.

Hives Hives

What to look for: Pale, red, very itchy or burning swellings of skin, that lasts for a few minutes to a few hours. Occur in groups on any part of the skin, varying in size from pencil eraser to dinner plate.
Cause: Allergic reaction to certain medications; infections; insect bites; or foods, such as chocolate, shellfish, nuts, cheese, tomatoes and fresh berries.
Where on the body: Found anywhere.
Prevention: Where possible, pinpoint the allergy-causing substance and avoid in the future.
Treatment: Caution — With severe drug or food allergy, hives may develop in mouth, throat or airway, requiring immediate emergency medical care to prevent asphyxiation. After such an attack, purchase and wear a medic alert bracelet warning of the allergies. For less severe cases, over-the-counter or prescription oral antihistamines can be used.
More details on Hives.


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Last updated February 12, 2014

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