All About Common Skin Disorders

Skin disorders vary greatly in symptoms and severity. They can be temporary or permanent, and may be painless or painful. Some have situational causes, while others may be genetic. Some skin conditions are minor, and others can be life-threatening.

While most skin disorders are minor, others can indicate a more serious issue. Contact your doctor if you think you might have one of these common skin problems.

There are many different types of skin disorders.

Acne

Commonly located on the face, neck, shoulders, chest, and upper back
Breakouts on the skin composed of blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, or deep, painful cysts and nodules
May leave scars or darken the skin if untreated
Read full article on acne.

Cold sore

Red, painful, fluid-filled blister that appears near the mouth and lips
Affected area will often tingle or burn before the sore is visible
Outbreaks may also be accompanied by mild, flu-like symptoms such as low fever, body aches, and swollen lymph nodes
Read full article on cold sores.

Blister

Characterized by watery, clear, fluid-filled area on the skin
May be smaller than 1 cm (vesicle) or larger than 1 cm (bulla) and occur alone or in groups
Can be found anywhere on the body
Read full article on blisters.

Hives

Itchy, raised welts that occur after exposure to an allergen
Red, warm, and mildly painful to the touch
Can be small, round, and ring-shaped or large and randomly shaped
Read full article on hives.

Actinic keratosis

Typically less than 2 cm, or about the size of a pencil eraser
Thick, scaly, or crusty skin patch
Appears on parts of the body that receive a lot of sun exposure (hands, arms, face, scalp, and neck)
Usually pink in color but can have a brown, tan, or gray base
Read full article on actinic keratosis.

Rosacea

Chronic skin disease that goes through cycles of fading and relapse
Relapses may be triggered by spicy foods, alcoholic beverages, sunlight, stress, and the intestinal bacteria Helicobacter pylori
There are four subtypes of rosacea encompassing a wide variety of symptoms
Common symptoms include facial flushing, raised, red bumps, facial redness, skin dryness, and skin sensitivity
Read full article on rosacea.

Carbuncle

Red, painful, and irritated lump under your skin
May be accompanied by fever, body aches, and fatigue
Can cause skin crustiness or oozing
Read full article on carbuncles.

Latex allergy

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Rash may occur within minutes to hours after exposure to a latex product
Warm, itchy, red wheals at the site of contact that may take on a dry, crusted appearance with repeated exposure to latex
Airborne latex particles may cause cough, runny nose, sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes
A severe allergy to latex can cause swelling and difficulty breathing
Read full article on latex allergies.

Eczema

Yellow or white scaly patches that flake off
Affected areas may be red, itchy, greasy, or oily
Hair loss may occur in the area with the rash
Read full article on eczema.

Psoriasis

MediaJet/Wikimedia Commons
Scaly, silvery, sharply defined skin patches
Commonly located on the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back
May be itchy or asymptomatic
Read full article on psoriasis.

Cellulitis

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Caused by bacteria or fungi entering through a crack or cut in the skin
Red, painful, swollen skin with or without oozing that spreads quickly
Hot and tender to the touch
Fever, chills, and red streaking from the rash might be a sign of serious infection requiring medical attention
Read full article on cellulitis.

Measles

Symptoms include fever, sore throat, red, watery eyes, loss of appetite, cough, and runny nose
Red rash spreads from the face down the body three to five days after first symptoms appear
Tiny red spots with blue-white centers appear inside the mouth
Read full article on measles.

Basal cell carcinoma

Raised, firm, and pale areas that may resemble a scar
Dome-like, pink or red, shiny, and pearly areas that may have a sunk-in center, like a crater
Visible blood vessels on the growth
Easy bleeding or oozing wound that doesn’t seem to heal, or heals and then reappears
Read full article on basal cell carcinoma.

Squamous cell carcinoma

Often occurs in areas exposed to UV radiation, such as the face, ears, and back of the hands
Scaly, reddish patch of skin progresses to a raised bump that continues to grow
Growth that bleeds easily and doesn’t heal, or heals and then reappears
Read full article on squamous cell carcinoma.

Melanoma

The most serious form of skin cancer, more common in fair-skinned people
Mole anywhere on the body that has irregularly shaped edges, asymmetrical shape, and multiple colors
Mole that has changed color or gotten bigger over time
Usually larger than a pencil eraser
Read full article on melanoma.

Lupus

Symptoms include fatigue, headaches, fever, and swollen or painful joints
Scaly, disc-shaped rash that doesn’t itch or hurt
Scaly red patches or ring shapes most commonly located on the shoulders, forearms, neck, and upper torso that worsen with exposure to sunlight
Warm, red rash that spreads across the cheeks and bridge of the nose like butterfly wings and worsens in the sun
Read full article on lupus.

Contact dermatitis

Appears hours to days after contact with an allergen
Rash has visible borders and appears where your skin touched the irritating substance
Skin is itchy, red, scaly, or raw
Blisters that weep, ooze, or become crusty
Read full article on contact dermatitis.

Vitiligo

Loss of pigment in the skin due to autoimmune destruction of the cells that give skin its color
Focal pattern: loss of skin color in only a few small areas that may merge together
Segmental pattern: depigmentation on one side of the body
Premature graying of scalp and/or facial hair
Read full article on vitiligo.

Wart

Dermnet
Caused by many different types of a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV)
May be found on the skin or mucous membranes
May occur singly or in groups
Contagious and may be passed to others
Read full article on warts.

Chickenpox

Clusters of itchy, red, fluid-filled blisters in various stages of healing all over the body
Rash is accompanied by fever, body aches, sore throat, and loss of appetite
Remains contagious until all blisters have crusted over
Read full article on chickenpox.

Seborrheic eczema

Yellow or white scaly patches that flake off
Affected areas may be red, itchy, greasy, or oily
Hair loss may occur in the area with the rash
Read full article on seborrheic eczema.

Keratosis pilaris

Common skin condition most often seen on the arms and legs, but might also occur on the face, buttocks, and trunk
Often clears up on its own by age 30
Patches of skin that appear bumpy, slightly red, and feel rough
May get worse in dry weather
Read full article on keratosis pilaris.

Skin Disorders

Skin Disorders

Ringworm

James Heilman/Wikimedia Commons
Circular-shaped scaly rashes with raised border
Skin in the middle of the ring appears clear and healthy, and the edges of the ring may spread outward
Itchy
Read full article on ringworm.

Melasma

Common skin condition that causes dark patches to appear on the face and, rarely, the neck, chest, or arms
More common in pregnant women (chloasma) and individuals with darker skin color and heavy sun exposure
No other symptoms beyond skin discoloration
May go away on its own within a year or may become permanent
Read full article on melasma.

Impetigo

Common in babies and children
Rash is often located in the area around the mouth, chin, and nose
Irritating rash and fluid-filled blisters that pop easily and form a honey-colored crust
Read full article on impetigo.

Temporary skin disorders
Many temporary skin conditions exist, including contact dermatitis and keratosis pilaris.

Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is one of the most common occupational illnesses. The condition is often the result of contact with chemicals or other irritating materials. These substances can trigger a reaction that causes the skin to become itchy, red, and inflamed. Most cases of contact dermatitis aren’t severe, but they can be rather itchy. Topical creams and avoiding the irritant are typical treatments.

Keratosis pilaris

Keratosis pilaris is a minor condition that causes small, rough bumps on the skin. These bumps usually form on the upper arms, thighs, or cheeks. They’re typically red or white and don’t hurt or itch. Treatment isn’t necessary, but medicated creams can improve skin appearance.

Permanent skin disorders

Some chronic skin conditions are present from birth, while others appear suddenly later in life.

The cause of these disorders isn’t always known. Many permanent skin disorders have effective treatments that enable extended periods of remission. However, they’re incurable, and symptoms can reappear at any time. Examples of chronic skin conditions include:

rosacea, which is characterized by small, red, pus-filled bumps on the face
psoriasis, which causes scaly, itchy, and dry patches
vitiligo, which results in large, irregular patches of skin
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Skin disorders in children
Skin disorders are common in children. Children can experience many of the same skin conditions as adults. Infants and toddlers are also at risk for diaper-related skin problems. Since children have more frequent exposure to other children and germs, they may also develop skin disorders that rarely occur in adults. Many childhood skin problems disappear with age, but children can also inherit permanent skin disorders. In most cases, doctors can treat childhood skin disorders with topical creams, medicated lotions, or condition-specific drugs.

Common childhood skin disorders include:

eczema
diaper rash
seborrheic dermatitis
chickenpox
measles
warts
acne
fifth disease
hives
ringworm
rashes from bacterial or fungal infections
rashes from allergic reactions

Symptoms of skin disorders

Skin conditions have a wide range of symptoms. Symptoms on your skin that appear due to common problems aren’t always the result of a skin disorder. Such symptoms can include blisters from new shoes or chafing from tight pants. However, skin problems that have no obvious cause may indicate the presence of an actual skin condition that requires treatment.

Skin irregularities that are typically symptoms of a skin disorder include:

raised bumps that are red or white
a rash, which might be painful or itchy
scaly or rough skin
peeling skin
ulcers
open sores or lesions
dry, cracked skin
discolored patches of skin
fleshy bumps, warts, or other skin growths
changes in mole color or size
a loss of skin pigment
excessive flushing

Causes of skin disorders

Common known causes of skin disorders include:

bacteria trapped in skin pores and hair follicles
fungus, parasites, or microorganisms living on the skin
viruses
a weakened immune system
contact with allergens, irritants, or another person’s infected skin
genetic factors
illnesses affecting the thyroid, immune system, kidneys, and other body systems
Numerous health conditions and lifestyle factors can also lead to the development of certain skin disorders. Some skin conditions have no known cause.

Inflammatory bowel disease
Inflammatory bowel disease is a term for a group of intestinal disorders that cause prolonged inflammation of the digestive tract. These bowel-related disorders often cause skin problems. The drugs used to treat these diseases can cause certain skin conditions, such as:

skin tags
anal fissures
stomatitis
vasculitis
vitiligo
allergic eczema
Diabetes
Many people with diabetes experience a skin problem as a result of their condition at some point. Some of these skin disorders only affect people with diabetes. Others occur more frequently in people with diabetes because the disease increases the risk for infection and blood circulation problems. Diabetes-related skin conditions include:

bacterial infections, such as boils, styes, and folliculitis
fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot, ringworm, and yeast infections
acanthosis nigricans
diabetic blisters
diabetic dermopathy
digital sclerosis
Lupus
Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that can damage the skin, joints, or organs inside the body. Common skin problems that occur from lupus include:

round lesions on the face and head
thick, red, scaly lesions
red, ring-shaped lesions on body parts exposed to sunlight
flat rash on the face and body that looks like a sunburn
red, purple, or black spots on fingers and toes
sores inside the mouth and nose
tiny red spots on the legs
Pregnancy
Pregnancy causes significant changes in hormone levels that may lead to skin problems. Preexisting skin problems may change or get worse during pregnancy. Most skin conditions that arise during pregnancy go away after the baby is born. Others require medical attention during pregnancy.

Common skin conditions caused by pregnancy include:

stretch marks
melasma
pemphigoid
pruritic urticarial papules and plaques
eczema
Stress
Stress can cause hormonal imbalances, which may trigger or aggravate skin disorders. Stress-related skin problems include:

eczema
psoriasis
acne
rosacea
ichthyosis
vitiligo
hives
seborrheic dermatitis
alopecia areata
Sun
The sun can cause many different skin disorders. Some are common and harmless, while others are rare or life-threatening. Knowing if the sun causes or worsens your skin disorder is important for treating it properly.

Sunlight exposure may cause or aggravate the following conditions:

moles
wrinkles
sunburn
actinic keratosis
skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma
photosensitivity
Treating skin disorders
Many skin disorders are treatable. Common treatment methods for skin conditions include:

antihistamines
medicated creams and ointments
antibiotics
vitamin or steroid injections
laser therapy
targeted prescription medications
Not all skin disorders respond to treatment. Some conditions go away without treatment. People with permanent skin conditions often go through periods of severe symptoms. Sometimes people are able to force incurable conditions into remission. However, most skin conditions reappear due to certain triggers, such as stress or illness.

You can often treat skin disorders that are temporary and cosmetic with:

medicated makeup
over-the-counter skin care products
good hygiene practices
small lifestyle adjustments, such as making certain dietary changes
Preventing skin disorders
Certain skin disorders aren’t preventable, including genetic conditions and some skin problems due to other illnesses. However, it’s possible to prevent some skin disorders.

Follow these tips to prevent infectious skin disorders:

Wash your hands with soap and warm water frequently.
Avoid sharing eating utensils and drinking glasses with other people.
Avoid direct contact with the skin of other people who have an infection.
Clean things in public spaces, such as gym equipment, before using them.
Don’t share personal items, such as blankets, hairbrushes, or swimsuits.
Sleep for at least seven hours each night.
Drink plenty of water.
Avoid excessive physical or emotional stress.
Eat a nutritious diet.
Get vaccinated for infectious skin conditions, such as chickenpox.
Noninfectious skin disorders, such as acne and atopic dermatitis, are sometimes preventable. Prevention techniques vary depending on the condition. Here are some tips for preventing some noninfectious skin disorders:

Wash your face with a gentle cleanser and water every day.
Use moisturizer.
Avoid environmental and dietary allergens.
Avoid contact with harsh chemicals or other irritants.
Sleep for at least seven hours each night.
Drink plenty of water.
Eat a healthy diet.
Protect your skin from excessive cold, heat, and wind.
Learning about proper skin care and treatment for skin disorders can be very important for skin health. Some conditions require the attention of a doctor, while you can address others safely at home. You should learn about your symptoms or condition and talk with your doctor to determine the best treatment methods.

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