SOLUTIONS FOR SKIN WOES
Got a spot, dicoloured patch, or strange looking growth on your face or body? Here’s a guide to help you ID the problem and tackle it.
What it looks like: Pimples, spots, or zits that multiply and result in inflammation, redness. Can leave behind lasting scars or even cause hyperpigmentation. Triggered by: Hormonal activity (menstrual or puberty), genes, hyperactive sebaceous glands, presence of bacteria in the pores, accumulation of dead skin cells, and stress. Feels itchy, sometimes painful and embarrassing. Where? The face and neck, but the chest, back and shoulders may also be affected. Contagious? No What to do: OTC bactericidal products containing benzyl peroxide may be used in mild to moderate acne. Triclosan or chlorhexidine gluconate with suitable non-comedogenic moisturizers are considered to be effective as well. See a doctor if the above methods don’t help. Your derm may prescribe more powerful remedies that may include oral drugs, laser therapy.
LICHEN SIMPLEX CHRONICUS
What it looks like: Red and irritated, eventually taking on a brown, leathery appearance after too much scratching. Triggered by: Friction, say to metal fasteners, which irritates the skin. The more you scratch it, the more it itches. Feels Itchy Where? Ankles, wrists, neck, rectum, arms, legs, back of the knee, inner elbow. Contagious? No What to do: Stop scratching! You may need an anti-itching cream, such as hydrocortisone, as well as oral antihistamines, anti inflammatories or even tranquilizers prescribed by your doctor. Salicylic acid medications may be used on thickened lesions. See a doctor if the itching worsens, or your skin starts to get infected and you experience pain, or fluid leaks from the lesion.
What it looks like: Red, scaly patches with distinct edges that resembles like a ring. Sometimes the patches forms blisters and ooze. Caused by: Not a worm, despite the name. The culprit is a tenacious little fungus called tinea that thrives in warm, moist areas. Feels very itchy. Where? Anywhere, but often in warm, cozy areas like skin folds or on the scalp. Contagious? Yes! It’s spread through direct skin-to-skin contact or with personal items such as towels, and on locker room and pool surfaces. You can also catch it from pets. What to do: Try OTC antifungal creams that contain miconazole or clotrimazole. Continue to use them for one to two weeks after the rash has cleared to prevent re-infection, and wash sheets every day. See a doctor if the infection won’t clear up. He may give you a prescription topical lotion or antifungal pills.
What it looks like: Thick, red patches of skin covered by flaky, white scales (this describes the most common kind, plaque psoriasis). Other types are guttate (small, red spots), pustular (white pustules surrounded by red skin), inverse (lesions in skin folds), and erythrodermic (widespread redness, itching, and pain). Triggered by: An immune system dysfunction that causes overproduction of skin cells. Though a chronic condition, psoriasis can be triggered by dry skin; minor skin injuries; stress; sunburn or UV deprivation; and some infections, like strep throat. Feels painful sometimes and very embarrassing. Where? Scalp, elbows, knees, or torso, but can appear anywhere. Contagious? No. What to do: Keep skin lubricated. Depending on severity and location, treatment may include OTC cortisone creams, coal tar ointments, salicylic acid products, or anti dandruff shampoos. Exposure to sunlight can help clear skin (but avoid burning). See a doctor if your skin doesn’t clear with OTC treatment. You may need prescription strength topical steroids, photo therapy (light therapy), systemic medications, or newer drugs called biologics, which target the body’s immune response.
What it looks like: Anything from scaly, dry patches to blisters and dry, leathery areas. Triggered by: There is no proven cause, but studies have found that people are genetically susceptible to it, and triggers can include certain fabrics, warm clothing, deodorant, soaps, excessive bathing or perspiration, and stress. Feels intensely itchy. Where? Often on the inside of knees and elbows, DANDRUFF What it looks like: Snowflakes on your shoulders or an accumulation of white/yellowish scales on the scalp. This is followed by redness and irritation. Triggered by: Oily skin and because of a yeast called malessezia. Feels itchy (and embarrassing). Where? Usually the scalp but sometimes on eyebrows, eyelids, behind the ears, or in skin folds. Contagious? No. What to do: OTC medicated dandruff shampoos with active ingredients such as salicylic acid, coal tar, zinc, ketoconazole, or selenium. Shampoo daily, using fingertips to massage scalp and loosen scales. See a doctor if the condition doesn’t respond to OTC salves. He may prescribe stronger shampoos and medicated lotions containing selenium, ketoconazole, or corticosteroids.
face, and neck, but can crop up anywhere. Contagious? No What to do: Keep skin moist. Take brief showers with warm (not hot) water. Apply moisturizer immediately after bathing when skin is still damp. OTC anti-itch lotions and topical corticosteroids can soothe skin. See a doctor if it doesn’t clear up after vigilant moisturizing efforts, or skin is cracked and painful.
What it looks like: Red, chapped, scaly, or cracked. Triggered by: Dry winter air, harsh soaps, chemicals. Feels dry and itchy. Where? Mostly lower legs and arms, but possible anywhere. Contagious? No What to do: Wear gloves outside. Keep showers brief and use warm (not hot) water. Try a mild soap and don’t rub the soap in the driest areas. Apply moisturizer immediately after bathing while skin is still damp. See a doctor if the itching prevents you from sleeping or you suspect it is something other than dry skin.
What it looks like: Cracked, flaky red skin, sometimes with blisters. Caused by: A fungus called tinea pedis that thrives in humid areas. Feels burning and stinging. Where? Between the toes, anywhere on the foot or hands. Contagious? Yes, it can be passed through direct personal contact, in showers and pools, or by contact with someone else’s shoes and socks. What to do: Over-the-counter antifungal powders or creams that contain micozazole, clotrimazole, or tolnaftate. Continue to use them for one to two weeks after athlete’s foot has cleared to prevent re-infection. See a doctor if the rash doesn’t clear after two to four weeks of using OTC products. Your physician can prescribe stronger, prescription antifungals.
What it looks like: Reddish pustule, hard or tender lump. Caused by: Usually bacteria or parasites or other foreign materials – for e.g., splinters or injecting needles. Feels extremely painful at the site of the swelling. Where? on skin surface (some times in the lungs, brain, mouth, kidneys and tonsils) Contagious? The pus coming out of the abscess contains bacteria which can transmit infection on contact. So cover it up. What to do: Wound abscesses generally do not need to be treated with antibiotics, but they will require surgical intervention and curettage. See a doctor if the abscess has not improved even after 5 to 7 days, or the lump gets bigger and more painful or if you see red streaks spreading out from the lump.
What it looks like: Red patches with sharply defined edges that forms blister and ooze. Caused by: the tinea cruris fungus. Feels itchy. Where? In the groin, anus, or the creases of the upper thighs. Contagious? Yes, you can get it through skin-to-skin contact or contact with unwashed clothing. What to do: Keep area clean and dry, wear loose-fitting clothes that won’t irritate the affected area, and apply an OTC antifungal that contains miconazole, clotrimazole, or tolnaftate. See a doctor if it lingers for more than two weeks. He will prescribe stronger medications, including oral anti fungals.