Have you ever had a rash or itchy skin? Many people experience skin conditions such as rashes, dermatitis, eczema, or psoriasis sometime in their lives. Although each type has unique causes and treatments, they all involve irritation of the skin and can impact a person’s quality of life.
Understanding the root cause of an itch and getting it diagnosed is essential to relieving your symptoms. Whether it is an acute or chronic occurrence, a skin problem can sometimes reveal underlying health issues.
Knowing the differences between various skin issues and when to seek help is important for your health. Let’s dive into the characteristics of different skin rashes and when help from a medical provider could benefit you.
Skin problems: an understanding of rashes
A rash is an umbrella term used to describe skin irritation. Rashes occur in adults and children, and may be caused by viruses, bacteria, or an allergic reaction. Knowing the root cause of your rash is important to getting the appropriate treatment and relief.
Rashes may appear as bumps, scales, hives, or even blisters that leave the skin feeling itchy, irritated, and painful. When symptoms of a rash show up, it can be a sign of an underlying medical problem such as dermatitis, eczema, or psoriasis.
In children, most rashes are viral, but diagnosing the cause is important to identify the correct issue. Not all rashes are harmful, but ignoring them in yourself or your child can make things worse. Seeking an evaluation from a healthcare provider who will diagnose the rash and recommend treatment options can help you feel better.
What is Dermatitis
Dermatitis is word used to describe various types of skin inflammation. Substances that irritate the skin can cause dermatitis, which may show up as heat rash, eczema, allergic reactions, and more. Although eczema is a type of dermatitis, not all dermatitis is eczema.
Symptoms of dermatitis vary by diagnosis, but can range from redness, swelling, and dryness to rough, itchy, scaly skin, and discoloration or weeping sores.
The causes of dermatitis include:
- bacterial infection
- dry skin
- family history
- autoimmune disorders, or
- allergic reactions to fragrances, metal jewelry, or plants such as poison ivy
According to studies, contact dermatitis affects 20% of children. So look for redness that won’t go away or blisters on the skin – these can be signs of a condition that could benefit from the help of healthcare provider.
There are several main types of dermatitis, and each specific diagnosis is based on the rash’s location on the body, its cause, and the patient’s symptoms. The type of treatment depends on the specific diagnosis.
In addition, determining the triggers that caused the dermatitis can help you avoid or treat them to reduce future flare-ups.
Eczema is a non-contagious inflammatory skin condition, also known as atopic dermatitis. It is common in children but can occur in adults as well.
Eczema is a chronic condition with symptoms that may include dry, itchy, or crusty skin with raised bumps which can sometimes weep. Symptoms of eczema can appear all over the body but tend to appear in the “bending areas,” such as behind the knees and elbows.
Triggers of eczema include allergens or environmental factors such as:
- scented products (soaps, lotions, detergents, shampoos, cleaning products)
- cold and dry weather
- pet dander or
Usually, individuals with eczema complain about unbearable itching due to extremely dry skin. Keeping the skin moisturized can help reduce this problem in the short term. If the symptoms of eczema affect your well-being, a healthcare provider can help you find relief with medications or education on how to avoid the triggers that cause flare-ups.
Research hasn’t identified the exact cause of eczema but a person’s family history, immune health, environment, and their mental health can all play a part.
Psoriasis is a chronic immune system disorder that affects more than 8 million people in the United States. With psoriasis, the immune system continually works overtime, causing skin cells to overmultiply and build up instead of shedding off. The cause of psoriasis is unknown, but a patient’s family history and immunity play a role.
- Reddish skin with silvery-white scales
- Dry, cracked skin
- Itchiness and bleeding
Areas of the body where psoriasis mainly appears are the elbows, knees, and scalp. It is not contagious. Treatment recommended by a primary care provider may include topical creams, medication, light therapy, or other methods.
The triggers of psoriasis vary for each individual, but common triggers include stress, lifestyle changes, illness, or skin injuries.
For some patients, psoriasis can progress over time into a condition called psoriatic arthritis. This disorder affects the joints, causing pain and swelling and progressive joint damage. Psoriatic arthritis is treated by a Rheumatologist.
How do eczema and psoriasis differ?
How can you tell eczema from psoriasis? Both affect the outer skin layer. However, their presentations are quite different. Eczema appears as dry skin with red, weeping bumps. In contrast, psoriasis usually presents as raised red plaques with silvery scales.
It’s also important to observe the location of the rash. Eczema can show up in anywhere on the body, but mainly in the crease of the knees and elbows. Psoriasis occurs on the knees and elbows, as well as the scalp.
When should you seek help for a rash?
A rash means that your body is telling you something’s out of balance. They can indicate a short-term skin problem or an underlying health issue. Don’t ignore a rash when it occurs.
Seek help from a medical provider when you have:
- Pain, swelling or discomfort in the area of the rash
- Blistering or weeping of the skin
- A rash that spreads to different areas of the body
- Signs of infection – pus, pain, swelling or an odor
- A rash that doesn’t go away
Watch our video: When to See a Doctor for a Rash
Rashes can be irritating but not life-threatening. If not treated, they can grow worse over time. Seeing a healthcare provider can help you get the right diagnosis and the right treatment to relieve symptoms and help you feel better.
Paying attention to your skin is essential for your overall health. At Western Washington Medical Group, our family medicine providers can assess and evaluate your skin concerns and recommend treatment. We work with each patient to create an individualized treatment plan.