A rash (or preferred term, skin eruption) is the term to describe a change in the skin that affects its color, appearance or texture. Rashes may cause the skin to become red, itchy, bumpy, dry, cracked, blistered, or swollen. Rashes can affect localized areas of the body, or may spread to many skin locations.
The causes of rashes vary widely. Symptoms of many rashes are similar, often making the diagnosis challenging. Because the causes are numerous, they are also often difficult to treat. Treatment will focus on relieving symptoms while trying to determine the underlying cause. Often rashes will disappear on their own in several days, or may be relieved with prescription lotions or creams.
If you suffer from a rash, Dr. Poulos will try to determine the cause by asking questions about what you may have been exposed to and what your family health history entails. Sometimes a skin biopsy will be obtained. Some causes of rashes include:
- Contact Dermatitis:
Contact dermatitis refers to a variety of rashes that are brought on by skin contact with something that irritates the skin, or that causes an allergy.
A common example of contact dermatitis is poison oak or poison ivy. These plants contain oil called “urushiol,” which evokes a rash-causing allergic response in 65-70% of the population. Other common materials causing contact dermatitis include: soaps, detergents, perfumes, cosmetics, jewelry, certain fabrics, or latex. Usually rashes caused by allergy or irritants only affect the area of the skin exposed to the rash-causing material. Symptoms generally include: inflammation of the skin, redness, small bumps, and itching. Treatment may involve avoiding the allergen that caused the rash, as well as using topical steroids in the appropriate situation.
- Bacterial Infections:
A common bacterial infection is impetigo, which is caused by staph or strep. It is more common in children than adults, and is contagious. The rash may appear as small blisters or scabs. A prescription antibiotic ointment or oral antibiotics may be prescribed.
- Viral Infections:
Viral infections such as herpes, shingles, or chicken pox, are contagious conditions that may produce a rash, generally characterized by red, itchy bumps or blisters. Patients with vial rashes may have other viral symptoms such as nausea, sneezing, and coughing.
- Fungal Infections:
Fungal infections affect the skin and often cause rashes. For more information, see the section of the website “Medical Conditions” and click the “Fungus” link.
- Skin Conditions:
Other types of skin conditions such as hives, eczema, rosacea and psoriasis, may also cause “rashes.” See the section of the website “Medical Conditions” for more information about these diseases.