Skin conditions are one of the most common chronic ailments in the world. According to a 2017 study published in JAMA Dermatology, skin conditions contribute to nearly 2% of the global burden of disease. Furthermore, the American Academy of Dermatology reports that nearly one out of every four people in the United States has a skin disease.
With such a high prevalence, learning to tell one skin condition from another can help you determine what’s bothering your skin, and guide you toward the correct treatment methods. In this article, we’ll cover the eight most common skin conditions; four of which are lasting conditions, and four that are temporary.
Along with covering what these conditions are, we’ll also examine how long they last, when and how they develop, and what areas of the skin they typically affect. First, let’s start by covering the four longer-lasting most common skin conditions.
Many of the Most Common Skin Conditions Can Last a Lifetime
Many skin conditions can last for long periods. Some conditions can last for months or years, while others can span an entire lifetime. Oftentimes, these types of skin conditions start during childhood and continue into adulthood. In some cases, these lifelong or long-lasting skin conditions may not always be presently displaying symptoms, but rather will come and go in what is known as “flare-ups.” One such condition that flares up frequently is rosacea.
Rosacea is one of the most common skin conditions that last a lifetime. It’s estimated that nearly 16 million people in the U.S. suffer from rosacea. Rosacea causes blushing or flushing of the skin and visible blood vessels in the face. This often leads to red, warm areas on the cheeks and nose. In people with darker skin, the affected areas may appear darker and warmer than the surrounding skin.
There are four subcategories of rosacea, which can all cause different symptoms. Below, we’ll cover these four types, and look at the most common symptoms they cause.
- Erythematotelangiectatic Rosacea (ETR) typically causes:
- Redness in the face
- Visible blood vessels
- Papulopustular Rosacea may cause:
- Swelling in the face
- Breakouts that look like acne
- Frequent flare-ups
- Phymatous Rosacea causes:
- Thickening of the skin around the nose
- Bumpy skin
- Deep, red areas on the cheeks and bridge of the nose
- Ocular Rosacea usually causes:
- Irritation or redness of the eyes
- Swollen eyelids
- Sensations that something is in the eye
- Irritations or bumps that look like styes
Currently, there is no known cure for rosacea. Doctors will often prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to help with swelling and irritation.
Lupus is an autoimmune disorder that causes your body’s immune system to attack your tissues and organs. While the inflammation caused by lupus can affect many of your body’s systems, such as your joints, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart, and lungs, the most distinctive symptom of lupus is a facial rash that resembles the wings of a butterfly unfolding across both cheeks.
Symptoms of lupus can vary from person to person and can range from mild to severe. Symptoms of lupus that affect the skin include:
- Red patches or rings
- Sunburn-like rashes on the nose or cheeks
- Circular rashes that do not itch or hurt
Oftentimes, these symptoms may appear alongside headaches, fever, fatigue, and swollen or stiff joints.
According to the Lupus Foundation of America, nearly 90% of people with lupus are women. Additionally, those with darker skin are three times more likely to develop lupus than those with fairer skin. Symptoms in people with darker skin are also typically more severe, although the reasons why are unclear.
Psoriasis is another common autoimmune disorder that affects the skin. It’s estimated that nearly 7.5 million people in the U.S. have psoriasis. People with this common skin condition typically have itchy, scaly patches of skin that appear around the knees, elbows, trunk, and scalp. Psoriasis tends to go through cycles, flaring up for a few weeks or months, then subsiding for some time.
The severity and symptoms of psoriasis can vary from person to person and may appear differently on different skin types. For example, someone with psoriasis who has fair, lighter skin may have patches of skin that are red or pink with white scales. On the other hand, someone with darker skin may have patches that appear violet, gray, or dark brown.
The symptoms of psoriasis may also vary depending on the type of psoriasis you have. There are five different types, which includes:
- Plaque psoriasis causes:
- Red, inflamed patches of skin
- Whitish-silver scales
- Irritation of the skin around the elbows, knees, and scalp
- Guttate psoriasis may cause:
- Patches of pinkish spots on the skin
- Raised, sometimes scaly patches on the arms, legs, or torso
- Pustular psoriasis usually causes:
- White, pus-filled blisters
- Large areas of red, inflamed skin
- Irritation of the skin on the hands or feet
- Inverse psoriasis causes:
- Red, itchy skin
- Shiny patches of skin, often in the skin folds such as the armpits, groin, or around the breasts
- Erythrodermic psoriasis can cause:
- Sunburn-like rashes
- Large patches of red, inflamed skin
- Skin shedding that occurs in large sheets
- Severe itching
Eczema is one of the most common skin conditions, affecting nearly 31 million Americans, according to the National Eczema Association. Typically, eczema usually develops in early childhood, but it can arise later in life. The most common symptom of eczema is rashes on or around the face, scalp, elbows, neck, wrists, ankles, or legs.
There are several different types of eczema: atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, nummular eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, and stasis dermatitis. While all of these types of eczema have their symptoms and causes, several hallmark symptoms are found across the board. These include:
- Dry skin
- Red bumps that do not ooze or leak
- Red or brown patches of skin
- Prolonged itching or scratching that leaves thick, leathery skin
Symptoms of eczema may be less noticeable in people with darker skin than those with lighter skin. People with eczema who have darker skin may experience some discoloration of the skin, making the affected areas appear lighter or darker. This may last even after eczema symptoms are no longer present.
Some of the Most Common Skin Conditions Can Be Temporary
Of our list of the eight most common skin conditions, we’ve included four more temporary conditions, or that may resolve with time or the right treatments. These conditions can still be difficult to live with and can cause symptoms that can make everyday life difficult. It’s important to remember that although these conditions may be temporary, they can still require medical intervention from your doctor or dermatologist. [add]
Across the board, acne is one of the most common skin conditions. This common skin condition is caused by hair follicles under the skin becoming clogged. Sebum—the oil that helps keep your skin from drying out—and dead skin cells plug your pores, which leads to the outbreaks of pimples or zits commonly associated with acne.
For most people, acne tends to go away by the time they reach their thirties, but some people in their forties and fifties continue to have this skin problem. Common symptoms of acne include:
- Pustules, also known as pimples, with pus at their tips
- Cysts, which are usually larger, that cause painful, pus-filled bumps beneath the skin
- Papules, which are raised bumps that stem from an infection of the hair follicles
- Painful lumps beneath the surface of the skin, known as nodules
Anyone can develop acne. People with darker skin may experience dark spots, known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, as a result of acne.
Acne is most commonly treated with medications or topical creams and ointments. For some, light therapy may also be effective in more severe cases.
Hives, also known as urticaria, are another common skin condition that is usually temporary. Typically, hives are itchy, raised welts on the surface of the skin. They are often pinkish-red in color but may appear darker in people with darker skin. Hives often appear suddenly and are accompanied by swelling of the skin known as angioedema.
For the most part, hives are the result of an allergic reaction. This allergic reaction can be caused by anything from foods to chemicals and can range from mild to severe. Other common causes of hives include stress, certain illnesses or infections, friction from tight clothing, sunlight, and insect bites.
Hives usually appear in clusters, appearing in one part of the body and reappearing in another. Treatment usually involves antihistamines or corticosteroids to help with inflammation.
Athlete’s foot is one of the most common types of fungal skin infections. Research suggests that upwards of 25% of Americans will develop athlete’s foot at some point in their lives. The fungus responsible for athlete’s foot, known as Trichophyton, thrives in warm, damp conditions, such as inside sneakers and between the toes. The condition typically occurs in people whose feet have become very sweaty while confined within tight-fitting shoes. In some cases, the condition can spread to the toenails, feet, and hands, although this is not as common.
Common symptoms of athletes’ foot include:
- Itchy, scaly red rash between your toes
- Small, red blisters (usually on your soles or between your toes)
- Ongoing dryness and scaling on the soles and up the sides of your feet
- Ulcers or sores that leak fluid, smell bad, and look red
- Discolored, thick, and fragile toenails
- Toenails that pull away from your nail bed
- Raw skin on your feet
Doctors usually treat athlete’s foot with antifungal creams or sprays.
The last ailment on our list of the most common skin conditions is cold sores. A cold sore is a red, fluid-filled blister that typically appears around the mouth. The affected skin may become painful and delicate to the touch, and is often accompanied by a burning sensation.
Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus, which may last for up to two weeks, after which it may return periodically. They are typically spread from one person to another by close contact, such as kissing or sharing drinks. Common symptoms of cold sores include:
- Tingling and itching. Many people feel itching, burning, or tingling around the lips for a day or so before a small, hard, painful spot appears and blisters erupt.
- Blisters. Small fluid-filled blisters typically erupt along the border of your lips. Sometimes they appear around the nose or cheeks or inside the mouth.
- Oozing and crusting. The small blisters may merge and then burst, leaving shallow open sores that ooze and crust over.
There’s no cure for cold sores, but treatment can help manage outbreaks. Prescription antiviral pills or creams can help sores heal more quickly.
Whether you’re dealing with acne, rosacea, psoriasis, or any other skin condition, understanding your symptoms is an important first step toward treatment. While some skin conditions are harmless, others can cause serious discomfort and distress. This can not only cause problems in your everyday life, but it can also lead to other health issues down the road. It’s always a good idea to talk with your doctor if you suspect you may be living with an undiagnosed skin condition. Your doctor can refer you to a dermatologist, who may be able to help assess your condition and put you on the right treatment plan.
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