28 Aug Skin Conditions: Care, Seasons & Health
Spotting Skin Conditions
– John Otrompke
Being aware of the first signs of skin conditions will help you know when it’s time to visit a doctor. Here is a short refresher on five of the most important signs you might see.
1. Butterfly Rash
This is a facial rash characterized by its shape: the middle part of the butterfly is on the bridge of the nose, with “wings” extending onto the cheeks. “It can signify a range of diseases, from milder conditions like rosacea, significant acne, eczema, and psoriasis, all the way to serious autoimmune connective tissue disorders such as lupus,” says Joseph Jorizzo, MD, professor and founding chair of the dermatology department at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Salem, North Carolina.
“Look for any sign of infection, such as a cold sore, which is characterized by a painful bump or blister on the face or nose,” says Jill Weinstein, MD, clinical instructor of dermatology at Northwestern University in Chicago. “This may be caused by herpes simplex.”
Both viral and bacterial infections may appear as pustules, or tender lesions. They can sometimes look like acne, but may also be bigger or more isolated than a pimple, Weinstein says.
3. Patchy Hair
Be alert for round, patchy areas of hair loss, which can be a sign of an autoimmune disease called alopecia areata, Jorizzo says. “Alopecia is associated with thyroid disease, but it can also be upsetting to the patient in and of itself,” Jorizzo explains. “Prognosis is very good if there is just one little circle, but if they lose their eyebrows or eyelashes, or if it goes around the bottom of the scalp, the condition is likely to be more chronic.”
Nails may also offer evidence of a medical condition. “Signs on the nails include a condition called clubbing, where there’s body under the cuticle that changes the angle of the nail, so that it’s like an upside down V,” Jorizzo says. Clubbing is sometimes accompanied by edema, and the cuticle area may feel wet. It can be a symptom of several lung conditions, ranging from chronic bronchitis to lung cancer.
Pits in the nails can be a sign of arthritis or psoriasis. Pits resemble a mere dent, perhaps 1 millimeter across. Jorizzo explains, “In psoriasis, the outer layers of skin turn over very quickly, and when they come from under the cuticle, little patches fall off, so you get a pit.” Finally, a single dark black streak in the nail that comes up on to the cuticle can be a sign of melanoma.
5. Skin Cancer
The most common source of skin cancer deaths is melanoma, which may be identified using the ABCDE criteria:
Asymmetry. The mole is an unusual shape, not round.
Border Irregularity. The edges of the mole may be jagged, scalloped, or wavy, or very sharp in one area.
Color. The mole shows variation in color from one area to another. There may be multiple shades of tan, brown, black, white, blue, or red.
Diameter. The mole is greater than 6 millimeters in diameter.
Evolving. The mole is new, or an existing mole has changed in size, shape, or color.
(to read the entire article, please click here Summer-2017-Newsletter