Skin Conditions FAQs
Reviewed by William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
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Q:What skin condition causes localized red, itchy blisters that ooze then crust over?
A:Shingles. Shingles (herpes zoster virus) is an extremely painful viral infection of the nerve roots that results in a skin rash. Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes the childhood illness chickenpox. The reactivated virus responsible for these conditions is called the varicella zoster virus (VZV). The rash is characteristically red, itchy blisters that break open and ooze. The affected areas will then crust over and heal. The duration of the outbreak may take three to four weeks from start to finish.
Q:Ringworm is a fungal infection caused by worms. True or False?
A:False. Ringworm is a common fungal infection of the skin and is not due to a worm. The term ringworm or ringworms refers to a particular type of fungal infection that is on the surface of the skin. The name is derived from the early belief that the infection was due to a worm, which it is not. Nevertheless, the name ringworm remains. These fungi can produce round spots on the skin. Ringworm causes a scaly, crusted rash that may itch. Ringworm can be successfully treated with antifungal medications used either topically or orally.
Q:A noncontagious rash of thick plaques and scales describes what skin condition?
A:Psoriasis. Psoriasis is a reddish, scaly rash often located over the surfaces of the elbows, knees, scalp, and around or in the ears, navel, genitals, or buttocks. Chronic plaque psoriasis affects approximately 2% of people worldwide. Treatment options include topical steroid creams, tar soap preparations, and exposure to ultraviolet light. The exact cause of psoriasis remains unknown.
Q:What is the name of the chronic skin disease with acne-like features that affects the middle portion of the face with persistent oily redness?
A:Rosacea is the name for the chronic skin disease that affects the middle portion of the face with persistent oily redness. Rosacea is a common, chronic, incurable, adult acne-like skin condition that has periodic flares and remissions. Rosacea commonly affects the central third of the face, especially the nose, and may also appear on the forehead, cheeks, and chin. While rosacea can be a very bothersome and embarrassing condition, it is easily controllable and medically manageable. It is most commonly seen in people with light skin and particularly in those of English, Irish, and Scottish backgrounds. Some famous people with rosacea include the former U.S. President Bill Clinton and W.C. Fields.
Q:What is a boil?
A:A boil is a skin abscess, or a collection of pus localized deep in the skin. A boil usually starts as a reddened, tender area and in time becomes firm and hard. Eventually, the center of the abscess softens and becomes filled with white blood cells (pus) that the body sends to fight the infection.
Q:Which intensely itchy skin condition is caused by what has come to be known as the "itch mite"?
A:Scabies. Scabies is an itchy, highly contagious skin condition caused by an infestation by the itch mite Sarcoptes scabiei. Direct skin-to-skin contact is the mode of transmission. Sexual contact is the most common form of transmission among sexually active young people, and scabies has been considered by many to be a sexually transmitted disease (STD). A severe and relentless itch is the predominant symptom of scabies. Treatment includes oral or topical scabicidal drugs.
Q:The human papillomavirus (HPV) causes the skin condition known as what?
A:Warts (Common warts) Common warts are local growths in the skin that are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Warts often affect just one part of the body (such as the hands or the feet) without spreading over time to other areas.
Q:Itching, burning, pain, and scaling caused by a fungus of the feet describes what?
A:Athlete's foot. Athlete's foot is a common dermatitis of the webs of the toes and soles of the feet. Common symptoms of athlete's foot typically include various degrees of itching, burning, pain, and scaling of the skin. When caused by a fungus, athlete's foot may spread to the palm, groin, and body. Fungal infections of the feet are contagious and can be spread person to person or by walking on contaminated objects and floors. When athlete's foot caused by a fungus, it can be treated with antifungal medications, many of which are available over the counter.
Q:Small flaps that hang off the skin are called skin tags. True or False?
A:True. Skin tags are common, acquired, benign skin growths that look like a small piece of soft, hanging skin. Skin tags are harmless growths that affect males and females equally.
Q:Excessive exposure to sunlight is the main cause of what skin condition?
A:Excessive exposure to sunlight is the main cause of skin cancer. Sunlight contains ultraviolet (UV) rays that can alter the genetic material in skin cells, causing mutations. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma have been linked to chronic sun exposure as has melanoma. Skin cancer is the most common form of human cancer.
Q:What causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever?
A:Rocky Mountain spotted fever is caused by ticks. It is the most severe tick-borne rickettsial illness in the United States. This disease is caused by infection with the bacterial organism Rickettsia rickettsii. The bacterium is spread to humans through the bite of infected ticks, and so the disease is most common in months where ticks are active, such as summer. Despite the name, the disease is not limited to the Rocky Mountains but rather occurs throughout most of the U.S. Most cases require hospitalization, and severe cases require intensive care.
Q:Insecticidal medication and the use of a specific comb is the treatment for what?
A:Insecticidal medication and the use of a specific comb is the treatment for head lice. Head lice are parasites that are found on human heads. Symptoms include a tickling feeling in the hair, itching caused by an allergic reaction to bites, irritability, and sores caused by scratching. The word lice is plural for louse.
Q:What is allergic contact dermatitis?
A:Allergic contact dermatitis is a red, itchy, weepy reaction where the skin has come into contact with a substance that the immune system recognizes as foreign, such as poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac or certain preservatives in creams and lotions. This type of reaction reflects a specific sensitivity or allergy to a specific substance. It's also called allergic contact eczema.
Q:Brownish or tan pigmentation of the face during pregnancy is called what?
A:Brownish or tan pigmentation of the face during pregnancy is called melasma or "pregnancy mask." Birth control pills can also cause melasma. However, hormone therapy after menopause does not cause the condition. Melasma darkens from sun or any UV exposure. Sunscreens are helpful. They should be broad spectrum. A SPF 30 or higher is best. A sunscreen should be worn daily, whether outside or inside. Treatment may also include bleaching creams and prescription creams.
Q:What is the most dangerous form of skin cancer?
A:Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. It is most common in people with fair skin, but can occur with all skin colors. Most melanomas present as a dark, mole-like spot that spreads and, unlike a mole, has an irregular border. High-SPF sunscreen is recommended when outdoors. Detected early, melanoma is almost always treatable.
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