What Is A Skin Rash?
A skin rash is a widespread eruption of lesions on the skin, though it may vary in size, shape, and location. Because of this variety, and the fact that they may appear on only one spot or all over the body, it’s difficult to pin down the causes or symptoms of skin rashes. A rash indicates an abnormal change in skin color or texture and they are typically caused by skin inflammation, which may result from any number of different causes. Many rashes are itchy, painful, and irritated, while some rashes may result in blisters, welts, or patches of raw skin.
Causes Of Skin Rashes
- Contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis occurs when a patient comes into direct contact with or has an allergic reaction to certain substances. Cleaning products and industrial chemicals are frequent causes of contact dermatitis resulting in a dry, non-itchy, scaly rash.
- Medications. Certain medications can cause patients to develop rashes — a telltale sign of an allergic reaction. Some medications, such as antibiotics, can cause photosensitivity, which makes patients more sensitive to sunlight and prone to skin damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays.
- Infections. Various infections from bacteria, fungi, or viruses can cause some types of rashes that differ in size and shape. For example, candidiasis — a common fungal infection — causes skin rashes that itch to develop and burrow within skin folds on the body.
- Autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune disorders occur when a patient’s immune system attacks healthy tissue. There is a myriad of autoimmune conditions that cause skin rashes, such as lupus. Lupus often results in a large rash that spreads across the face.
Skin Rash Treatment
There are many over-the-counter treatments for skin rashes available to help ease symptoms. Our dermatologists will likely recommend the use of these medications and techniques, including the following.
- Anti-itch creams;
- Oral antihistamines may help control itching;
- Wash the affected area with water only because soap can irritate it;
- Place wet, cold cloths on the rash to reduce itching;
- Leave the rash open to the air as much as possible;
- Moisturizing lotions provide needed moisture and help the skin begin to heal; and
- Avoid any known allergens and irritants to reduce the number of flare-ups.
Common Types Of Skin Rashes
The following comprises the most common types of skin rashes that are both diagnosed and treated by our dermatology professionals, including the surgeons at Advanced Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center.
Hives, or urticaria, is a random outbreak of swollen, red bumps called plaques. They appear on the skin suddenly as a result of an allergic reaction or unknown reasons and cause itching, burning, or stinging on the affected area. Hives can pop up anywhere on the body and range in size from as small as a pencil eraser to as large as a dinner plate. Severe hives warrant a trip to the dermatologist.
Atopic dermatitis, or eczema is a chronic skin condition that causes the skin to become red and irritated. The skin develops itchy, brownish-gray to red patches with eczema. Though symptoms vary widely from patient to patient, they might also include small, raised bumps and cracked, scaly, or thickened skin.
Christmas Tree Rash (Pityriasis Rosea)
Christmas tree rash earned its name from the pattern that often forms, which resembles the outline of a Christmas tree. The rash itself has a fine, itchy, and scaly texture which forms in a single patch, usually on the abdomen, back, or chest. Christmas tree rash generally goes away without treatment in several weeks, but may take months in more severe cases.
Heat Rash (Miliaria)
Hot and humid weather often causes heat rash for many patients, but the rash can also form by overdressing. Heat rash has two forms: prickly heat and miliaria crystallina. Prickly heat is characterized by small, red bumps that create a prickling or stinging sensation. Clear, fluid-filled bumps characterize miliaria crystallina, generally without the presence of other symptoms.
Rosacea causes facial redness and sometimes small bumps that are red or pus-filled in patients. Rosacea is a chronic skin condition marked by intermittent flare-ups caused by environmental triggers that vary from person to person. These triggers increase the blood flow to the skin’s surface.
Silvery, thick scales along with dry, inflamed, and sometimes painful patches characterize psoriasis. The patches and scales result from a sped-up skin cell life cycle and rapid accumulation of dead skin cells. There are many types of psoriasis, and it tends to have intermittent flare-ups.
Ringworm (Tinea Corporis)
Ringworm is a fungal infection rather than a rash and is characterized by expanding rings that are itchy, red, scaly, and slightly raised. As the infection spreads, the rings grow outward and infection in the center diminishes. This skin condition is highly contagious and requires dermatological treatment to fully resolve.
Skin Rashes Vs. Acne
To an untrained eye, different types of skin rashes can look similar to acne. It’s important to know the differences between a patch of pimples and a more serious skin condition, such as heat rash. Acne comes in many different forms including whiteheads, blackheads, pimples, cysts, or nodules. However, skin rashes don’t exhibit some or any of these characteristics. Acne treatment consists of mostly at-home remedies and over-the-counter creams, while rashes may require treatment plans recommended by trained dermatologists.