Itchy rash, oozing sores, scaly skin? These are just a few of the many symptoms of the more than 3,000 kinds of skin disorders. Some are temporary, easily treated, others can persist for a lifetime and cause chronic symptoms, disability, and emotional distress. Some skin conditions – such as melanoma – can even be deadly.
What does the skin do?
The skin forms a protective barrier for the body and guards against moisture, debris, and UV rays from the sun. Cuts and open wounds on the skin may allow pathogenic organisms into the body, which can cause infection. The skin contains oil glands that secrete sebum, a substance that helps moisturize the skin. Skin houses sweat glands that help keep the body cool. Nerves in the skin relay information about pain, temperature, and other sensations to the brain. Blood vessels and hair follicles are also found in the skin.
Skin problems are some of the most common reasons people visit a primary care physician. Some conditions arise directly from the skin (for example, dermatitis, ringworm or rosacea). Other non-dermatologic conditions (for example, herpes simplex virus or the human papilloma virus) have symptoms that manifest on the skin.
Symptoms of skin disorders
There are thousands of skin disorders that vary in their signs and symptoms. Common signs and symptoms may include:
- Dry skin
- Flesh-colored growths
- Mole that has changed size, shape, or color
- Peeling skin
- Pus-filled lesions
- Red, flushed, or yellowish skin
Causes of skin problems
Skin disorders have a variety of causes. Some skin symptoms are due to non-dermatologic disorders, which include:
- Allergens that are ingested or come into contact with the skin
- Illnesses that affect other parts of the body
- Infection due to bacteria, fungi, viruses, or parasites
- Immune system weakness or dysfunction
Diet and stress are two internal factors that can also affect skin health. A person who has food allergies may develop skin symptoms: the ingestion of food allergens can lead to hives, angioedema, or atopic dermatitis (eczema). Stress can either trigger skin conditions or make them worse by affecting not only the hormone levels in the body but also the immune function. Psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, rosacea, and fever blisters (cold sores) are a few skin conditions that can be triggered or worsened by stress.
A variety of external factors, like the sun itself, can also affect the skin. The sun, e.g., helps the skin manufacture vitamin D, but excess sun can lead to wrinkles, sunburn, and skin cancer. Many people with lupus find that sun exposure exacerbates their condition. Another skin disease, the contact dermatitis, is a rash that develops when the skin comes into contact with an allergic substance, like fragrances, nickel, or latex.
As you can see, there are countless factors that can potentially harm our skin directly or indirectly. It is hard to be careful enough to avoid most of them, therefore we suggest that you attend regular checkups, especially if you detect any of the symptoms. At FirstMed the time is now, as we offer a special Saturday checkup. Click here for more.