Skin rashes are characterized by changes in texture or color of the skin. Often rashes are pink or red and may or may not be scaly. Depending on the type or cause of the rash, the skin will often be itchy, irritated, or even painful. Some rashes can be swollen or even blister.
Rashes can be cause by a variety of factors depending on what type of rash you have. Some are more autoimmune/genetically based, some are due to contact with things in the environment, and some are related to bacteria or yeast.
Contact Dermatitis: This is another common rash that is due to contact with allergens that irritate the skin and may include fragrance, plants, metals, or various other ingredients in products. It is characterized more by geometric shaped red, scaly patches on the skin and can also blister. It is typically very itchy.
Atopic dermatitis (eczema): This is a common type of rash due to genetic and environmental factors that often begins in infancy or childhood but can affect anyone at any age. It is characterized by itchy skin with red scaly bumps that can progress to thickened, rough skin. It may also be associated with asthma or allergies.
Seborrheic Dermatitis: This rash is common and typically seen in oily areas of the skin including the scalp, ears, eyebrows, around the nose, beard area, and chest. It is due to a yeast that normally grows on our skin but can cause inflammation and scaling in some people. It is typically what we refer to as dandruff. Often, mild cases can be treated with over-the-counter shampoos.
Psoriasis: Psoriasis is a less common rash that affects about 2-4% of people. This rash appears more specific than many other rashes as it is characterized by a red rash with thick, silver scale. Psoriasis is considered an immune-mediated inflammatory disease and has a genetic component to it. It can affect anywhere on the body but common is found on the scalp, elbows, knees and lower back. It can be associated with psoriatic arthritis.
Shingles: Shingles, also referred to as herpes zoster, is a skin rash characterized by blisters on a red base located in a localized area on the body (dermatome). It can be quite painful, and pain can sometimes persist after the rash has healed. Shingles is caused by a reactivation of the varicella virus (chickenpox).
Ringworm: Ringworm, also known as tinea corporis, is a superficial fungal infection of the skin that is characterized by a red, round, scaly rash. As the rash progresses, you may see clearing of the center of the rash and more red bumps or pustules at the edge of the rash. It is typically very itchy.
Not all rashes are infectious and most of the time they are not contagious. Ringworm can be transferred from pets or by sharing towels with someone with an active infection. Shingles can be contagious to those who are not immune to chickenpox when there are active vesicles. It is important to have a diagnosis from your dermatologist regarding your skin rash to know if it is infectious or contagious.
Most rashes are not dangerous. There are a few rashes that when extensive and severe may be life-threatening, but these are uncommon. A few signs that you should seek medical attention related to your rash include: fever, sudden onset and rapidly spreading, rash covering the whole body, pain, drainage of yellow or green fluid.
Your dermatologist can often diagnose many rashes clinically, meaning just by looking at it. Sometimes a biopsy may also be helpful in diagnosing your rash, especially if it is not responding to treatment.
Rashes are treated differently depending on the type and cause of rash and how extensive it is. Most inflammatory rashes (eczema, psoriasis, contact dermatitis) can be treated with topical steroids. In extensive cases, systemic steroids or other systemic medications may be needed. For infectious rashes, treating the infection is typically required to resolve the rash.
Over the counter treatments are available for mild rashes. If you suspect an inflammatory rash, sometimes over the counter cortisone may help with the itch. For fungal infections, over the counter clotrimazole can be tried. There are also some over the counter shampoos that can help treat psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis (zinc pyrithione, salicylic acid, selenium sulfide, tar). Any rash that does not respond to over-the-counter treatment should be evaluated by a dermatologist.
For proper evaluation of your rash, I recommend seeing a board-certified dermatologist. We have extensive training in skin, hair and nails and are the best equipped to appropriately diagnose and treat your rash.
If you feel like you need help treating your rash, please feel free to give us a call or contact us by filling out our appointment form and we’ll contact you by the next business day to schedule you with Dr. Salyards.