The skin is the largest part of the body. It helps protect the entire body against various diseases and infections. However, the skin can also be afflicted by various conditions and illnesses.
Due to the extensive coverage of the skin on the body, there are many types of diseases that can affect it. Each disease has different symptoms that vary in severity. These conditions can be temporary or chronic. They can also be painless or extremely painful.
Furthermore, skin diseases can be mild or potentially fatal if not addressed.
Skin diseases can result from bacterial, viral, or fungal infections. They can also stem from hereditary conditions or injuries caused by accidents and other factors.
How do skin diseases affect the body?
Skin diseases might not always show symptoms. However, some of them can cause weakness or malfunction of certain body parts.
Some symptoms of skin diseases include:
Redness or swelling of the skin
Pain or burning in the affected area
Hardening or dryness of the affected area
Open sores or wounds
Treatments for skin diseases depend on the type or severity of the condition. If the disease is due to a bacterial infection, it can be treated with common antibiotics. If it’s caused by a virus, antiviral medications can be used. Meanwhile, fungal infections can be treated with antifungal creams applied to the affected body parts.
On the other hand, hereditary conditions are treated with specialized therapies or surgeries.
History of Skin Diseases
Skin conditions have been known since ancient times. One of the oldest records containing reports on skin diseases is the Ebers Papyrus from Egypt around 1500 B.C. This document described various skin conditions, including tumors, rashes, and ulcers. It also outlined medicines and different treatments for these diseases.
In 1572, Geronimo Mercuriali of Forli, Italy, completed “De morbis cutaneis,” a list or record of skin diseases. It was recognized as the first scientific work related to dermatology. Then, in 1799, Francesco Bianchi wrote “Dermatologia,” a comprehensive book on modern skin study for medical students.
In 1801, the first school dedicated to the study of the skin was established at the Hôspital Saint-Louis in Paris.
Due to the vast number of skin diseases, there are many symptoms associated with them. However, it’s important to know that not all visible symptoms on the skin are due to diseases. Some may result from other types of issues, such as blisters from wearing new shoes or chafing in the groin area due to tight pants.
Some common characteristics of skin diseases include:
Having small bumps which can be red or white
Having welts or bumps that might be painful or itchy
The roughening or scaling of the skin
Peeling of the skin
The presence of ulcers on the skin
Dryness or cracks in the skin
Patchy discolorations on the skin
Changes in the size and color of moles
Loss of skin color
Many types of skin diseases are very itchy. Here are some of these conditions and their causes:
Dermatitis. This refers to skin inflammation.
Eczema. This is a recurring type of skin disease characterized by itchiness and skin scaling.
Psoriasis. This is an autoimmune disease that causes redness, hardening, and burning of the skin.
Dermatographism. This is a raised welt that typically becomes red and itchy due to excessive pressure on the skin.
There are also diseases caused by bacterial or viral infections, including:
Infections caused by pinworms
Rashes due to fungi
Itching caused by mites and bedbugs
Itching due to lice
Itching caused by scabies
Some skin conditions are due to irritants. Examples of these include:
Itching caused by certain types of fabric
Itching due to perfumes, soaps, or hair dyes
Allergens found in certain foods (affecting people allergic to these ingredients)
There are also internal conditions that result in skin problems. These include:
Cirrhosis or liver scarring
Nervous system diseases
Blockage of the bile duct
Certain diseases affecting the veins can also result in skin conditions. Some of these are:
Meanwhile, some medications can cause rashes and itching, especially for those allergic to them. These medications include:
Pregnant women may also experience various types of itching on different parts of the body.
Meanwhile, stress can also cause skin conditions such as:
Even the sun can also cause skin conditions, especially when one is overexposed to sun rays. Some skin conditions due to sun exposure include:
Wrinkling of the skin
Actinic keratosis or skin scaling due to sun’s heat and rays
A condition where the skin becomes sensitive to sunlight.
Microbes and other organisms causing skin diseases
Skin diseases caused by bacteria include the following:
Meanwhile, skin diseases caused by viruses include:
Shingles (herpes zoster)
Hand, foot, and mouth disease
There are also skin diseases caused by fungi. These often affect moist parts of the body, such as between the toes or underarms. Some of these are not contagious and not fatal. These diseases include:
Fungal nail infection
Rashes due to wearing diapers
There are also parasites that cause skin diseases. The skin conditions resulting from parasitic bites can also affect other parts of the body, including the blood. These parasites include:
Cutaneous larva migrans
What factors can increase the risk of developing skin diseases?
Risk factors for skin diseases
Anyone can be affected by skin diseases. However, the following are at a higher risk:
People with poor personal or environmental hygiene
Those living in areas where skin infections are prevalent
People with liver conditions
Those with allergies to certain foods, animal fur, or chemicals
People with weak immune systems
Those with high levels of stress in their occupation or lifestyle
Those engaging in unprotected sex, without using protection like condoms
Treatment and Prevention
The doctor to consult for skin diseases is a dermatologist. They will advise on the type of treatment to be applied to a patient’s specific skin condition.
Many skin diseases can be treated. Some common medicines or methods to treat them include:
Antihistamines. These are commonly used to treat allergic reactions on the skin.
Medicated creams and ointments. These typically treat itchiness.
Antibiotics. These treat skin diseases caused by bacteria.
Steroid injections. Used to treat inflammation caused by skin diseases.
Laser therapy. Commonly used to remove skin imperfections.
Targeted prescription medication. Used to treat infections in specific parts of the body.
It’s important to understand that some types of skin diseases cannot be avoided, especially hereditary conditions and other diseases resulting from other illnesses, such as measles.
For some types of skin diseases, here are steps that can be taken to prevent them:
Make it a habit to wash hands with soap and lukewarm water.
Avoid sharing food utensils and drinks with others.
Avoid close contact with individuals who have skin diseases.
Clean equipment in public places, such as gyms, before using them.
Refrain from lending personal items, like blankets, combs, or bathing suits.
Aim to sleep for at least seven hours every night.
Make it a habit to drink lots of water.
Avoid physical and emotional stress.
Always choose nutritious food.
Get vaccinated against contagious skin diseases, such as chickenpox.
There are also non-contagious skin diseases that can be avoided. These include acne and atopic dermatitis. Here are steps to prevent these diseases:
Regularly wash the face using a mild cleanser and water.
Avoid environmental and food allergens.
Avoid harsh ingredients that can irritate the skin.
Get enough sleep.
Drink lots of water.
Choose nutritious foods.
Avoid exposing the skin to excessive cold, heat, or wind.
Having adequate knowledge about various skin diseases can greatly aid in skin care. Below is a list of diseases and various conditions related to the skin:
Types of Skin Diseases
Here are various types of skin diseases:
Acanthosis nigricans. This condition is identified by dark, smooth, and thick patches found in skin folds. It typically affects the armpits, groin, and neck.
Acne. The skin develops acne when hair follicles get clogged with dead skin cells and/or sebum. The blockage results in pimples, whiteheads, and blackheads found on the face, forehead, chest, upper back, and shoulders.
Acne scars. These are scars left by healed pimples. They can also be due to squeezing or popping the pimples.
Actinic keratosis. This condition presents as rough skin scaling resulting from years of sun exposure. It is commonly found on the face, lips, ears, hands, arms, and on the scalp or neck.
Alopecia areata. This is an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss.
Atopic dermatitis. Also known as eczema. This condition causes redness and itching of the skin and can be associated with hay fever or asthma.
Dandruff. This skin condition primarily affects the scalp. With this condition, the scalp’s skin peels off, causing itching.
Birthmarks. Birthmarks are typically brown-colored marks located beneath the skin. They start appearing either before a baby is born or shortly after. These could result from pigments in the skin or improperly formed blood vessels underneath.
Basal cell carcinoma. This is a type of skin cancer. Basal cells are the type of cells that produce new skin cells.
Chicken pox. This is a contagious infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Although commonly affecting children, it can also affect adults. It results in itchy fluid-filled blisters.
Ringworm. This is a fungal infection that forms on dead skin cells, hair, and nails. It is very itchy.
Prickly heat rash. This common skin condition is also known as miliaria rubra, prickly heat, or heat rash.
Cellulitis. This is a common skin infection that causes swelling. It is usually painful and typically affects the legs, face, or arms.
Cold sores. These are sore blisters that typically affect the lips, chin, cheeks, gums, mouth, or the insides of the nostrils. They can cause pain and itching in the affected area. Once the blisters burst, the skin hardens over the affected area.
Contact dermatitis. This condition causes itching and redness of the skin with rashes due to allergies. It is not contagious.
Diaper rash. This results from a baby wearing a wet diaper for too long. It’s very itchy and can also cause sores.
Dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans. This is a rare type of cancer affecting the deeper layers of skin. Descriptively, this condition has tentacle-like extensions that can grow into surrounding fat, muscle, or even bone.
Dyshidrotic eczema. Also called dyshidrosis. This condition causes blisters on the soles and palms. These blisters are extremely itchy and filled with fluid.
Genital herpes. This type of herpes primarily affects the skin around the genitals. It’s caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) and spreads through sexual contact.
Genital warts. This is a contagious skin condition caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). The warts typically affect the skin around the genitals.
German measles (rubella). This disease is caused by the rubella virus and has symptoms like regular measles.
Herpes simplex. This is a type of infection caused by herpes. It affects the mouth, genitals, or the area around the anus. It’s contagious and results in sores on the affected skin area.
Hidradenitis suppurativa. This is a chronic and painful skin condition that causes abscesses and scarring. Its exact cause remains unknown, but it forms near hair follicles and sweat glands around the buttocks, groin, breasts, and armpits.
Hives. This condition, also called urticaria, results in swollen red bumps on the skin. They can be caused by allergens and are extremely itchy or painful.
Hyperhidrosis. This is excessive sweating of the armpits, palms, and soles.
Impetigo. This condition is common and highly contagious. It predominantly affects infants and children. Impetigo forms on the face, especially around the nose and mouth, and also on the hands and feet.
Ichthyosis vulgaris. This condition is a type of ichthyosis, a group of related skin conditions. It results in the skin’s inability to shed its dead cells, leading to skin thickening.
Skin cancer. This condition is the abnormal proliferation of cancer cells on the skin. It is often caused by excessive exposure to the sun.
Keloids. These are raised scars that form when a wound on the skin heals. However, unlike regular scars, keloids are larger than the original wound.
Keratosis pilaris. This is a common but harmless skin condition. It results in dry and rough patches on the skin of the arms, thighs, cheeks, or buttocks. It typically is neither painful nor itchy.
Leprosy (Hansen’s disease). This is a recurrent infection caused by Mycobacterium leprae. It primarily affects the skin but can also affect other parts of the body.
Warts. These are infections caused by the human papillomavirus, or HPV. There are various types of warts that this virus causes, with most forming near the genitals.
Lichen planus. This condition results in inflamed skin with itchy rashes. It’s not contagious and is believed to possibly be a type of autoimmune disease.
Lupus. Lupus is a type of systemic autoimmune condition. It occurs when the immune system attacks other parts of the body, which can result in swelling or other skin conditions.
Melanoma. This is a type of skin cancer that starts in cells containing melanocytes, the components that provide color to the skin. It can also affect the mouth, intestines, or eyes.
Melasma. This is a common skin condition that results in the formation of brown patches, especially on the face.
Merkel cell carcinoma. This is a rare type of skin cancer, also known as neuroendocrine carcinoma of the skin. It results in the formation of red-blue skin discolorations on the face, head, or neck.
Moles. Moles are a common feature of the skin are common. Most people have them. They are formations of pigments, components that color the skin. Fair-skinned individuals seem to have more moles.
Molluscum contagiosum. This disease is an infection caused by the poxvirus (molluscum contagiosum virus). It causes lesions on various parts of the skin.
Nail fungus. This skin conditions results in white spots inside the nails. Over time, the nails change color and crack at the edges.
Neurodermatitis. This condition starts as an itchy patch on the skin. The itch then intensifies when scratched and as it’s scratched, the affected area thickens.
Nickel allergy. This is caused by allergic contact dermatitis, a burning rash that forms when the skin comes in contact with items containing nickel, like jewelry, coins, zippers, or eyeglass frames.
Nummular dermatitis. This condition is also known as nummular eczema or discoid eczema. It is a recurrent condition that causes coin-shaped spots or lesions on the skin. They are usually itchy.
Hair loss. Also known as alopecia, this condition can affect any part of the skin that has hair, but it typically occurs on the scalp.
Head lice infestation. Lice are parasites that live on the scalp. They survive by feeding on blood.
Dry skin. This is a condition where the skin becomes flaky, itchy, and cracked. It can affect any part of the body.
Scars. Scars are raised areas of skin that form over a healed wound. They are the body’s normal response to any type of skin injury.
Pemphigus. This is a rare autoimmune condition that affects the skin and mucous membranes.
Boils. These are infections caused by bacteria. They form in hair follicles or oil glands and usually appear on parts of the skin that rub together, such as the groin, armpits, and buttocks. They are painful and filled with pus.
Pityriasis rosea. This skin condition causes rashes. It can naturally resolve without treatment within six to eight weeks.
Psoriasis. This is an immune-mediated condition or abnormal immune function. It is characterized by raised red, scaly patches on the skin. Commonly found on the elbows, knees, scalp, and other parts of the body, this skin condition can be itchy and painful.
Psoriatic arthritis. This is a type of arthritis that follows the onset of psoriasis.
Rosacea. This is a common skin condition that causes facial redness, primarily on the nose, cheeks, forehead, and chin.
Scabies. Caused by tiny parasitic mites called Sarcoptes scabiei, this condition causes itching and rashes. It is contagious through skin-to-skin contact.
Scalp psoriasis. A type of psoriasis located on the scalp. It can spread to the forehead, back of the neck, or behind the ears.
Scleroderma. Also called systemic sclerosis, this is a chronic condition affecting the connective tissues.
Sebaceous carcinoma. This is a rare type of cancer that originates from an oil gland in the skin. It often starts around the eyelids.
Seborrheic dermatitis. Also known as seborrheic eczema, this common skin condition causes redness and flaky scales. It is typically found on the scalp but can also appear on other oily areas of the skin.
Seborrheic keratosis. This is a non-cancerous skin growth. It can appear on the back or chest but can also be found on other parts of the body.
Shingles. Also called herpes zoster, this condition occurs when the dormant chickenpox virus is reactivated.
Squamous cell carcinoma. This is the second most common type of skin cancer. It is found on parts of the skin damaged by UV rays, such as the head, chest, neck, upper back, ears, arms, thighs, and even hands. This cancer grows slowly.
Stasis dermatitis. This condition changes the skin color due to blood pooling in the veins of the legs.
Measles (or rubeola). This highly contagious disease is caused by the rubeola virus. Apart from other symptoms, it also causes itching and skin rashes.
Tinea versicolor. A common fungal infection, this condition results in skin discoloration.
Vitiligo. This is a long-term condition where patches of skin lose their color due to a lack of melanin, a pigment that gives skin its color. It can affect any part of the body, but it’s more common on the face, neck, hands, and skin creases.