On Your Health

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How to Recognize Benign Skin Conditions

31 January 2019

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Your skin plays a vital role in your health. As the largest organ of your body, your skin acts as a defense mechanism protecting you against outside pollutants and harsh UV rays. While your skin works hard for you, you need to do the same in return. You can start by knowing some of the basic benign skin conditions and when to seek treatment.

Distinguishing warts

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, warts are benign skin growths that appear when a virus infects the top layer of the skin. The virus that causes warts is called human papillomavirus (HPV).

Some of the most common types of warts are easily distinguished by where they grow on the body, and what they look like.

  • Common warts are found on fingers, nails and on the back of hands. They can have black dots on the tops of them that look like seeds and feel like rough bumps.
  • Foot warts grow on your feet and grow in clusters. Foot warts are flat and grow inwards, caused by the pressure of walking.
  • Flat warts can grow anywhere but are often found on your face, back of the hands or back. Flat warts are more common in children and are smaller and smoother than other warts.

Treatment: Luckily, warts normally will go away on their own. However, a dermatologist may use a topical cream to weaken them or use cryotherapy to freeze them off. If you are concerned about a wart, contact a dermatologist, who can usually tell what kind you are dealing with just by looking at them.

Benign moles and what to look for

Most moles are not skin cancer. They are often benign and are very common. Technically speaking, moles are referred to as melanocytic nevus, which is a medical term that describes a circumscribed chronic lesion that sits on the skin.

A benign mole is normally pink, tan or dark brown in color with a distinct circular border. Moles can either be raised or flat on the skin, like freckles. Moles are made of cells that make a pigment called melanin. Melanin helps to protect the body from ultraviolet light (UV radiation) from the sun and gives skin and hair its natural color. People with darker complexions have more melanin pigment and are more likely to develop new moles after exposure to sunlight.

Treatment: If you notice any significant changes in your mole, such as a change in color, texture or growth, it's important to see your doctor. Here are more symptoms you should look for.

  • Asymmetry – The shape of one half of the mole does not match the other.
  • Irregular borders – The edges are ragged, notched or blurred.
  • Uneven color – Shades of black, brown and tan may be present.
  • Diameter that increases over time.

Performing regular skin checks with a friend or spouse ensures areas you can’t reach or see can be observed.

Skin cysts: Causes and types

Epidermoid cysts are typical keratin-filled sacs of fluid that form slowly just underneath the skin.  These cysts are normally about the size of a pea and can be gently rolled underneath the skin. Cysts can be caused by so many different things within your body, even from hormone imbalances. But most cysts are formed from blockages of the body’s natural drainage systems or hair follicles. They can be found in most parts of the body but are more common on the scalp, face, back and genitals.

Here are other types of cysts and what they look like.

  • Sebaceous cyst are a lot like epidermoid cysts, but are less common. These cysts are normally found on the neck and can be red or tender to the touch.
  • Pilar cysts form around your hair follicles and are mostly found on the scalp. Hair doesn’t normally grow on the cyst, so they are easily found on the scalp.
  • Acne cysts are a more severe form of acne, formed deep within the skin. Cystic acne is caused are the hormonal changes in young adults but can also be found in older adults.

Treatment: Depending on what type of cyst you have, it may go away slowly over time, or you may need it removed by your doctor. If you experience rapid growth, pain or infection in your cyst, it’s important to contact your doctor.

skin rash

The many types of rashes

A rash is a reaction in which the skin develops an abnormal texture and other features, such as pain, itching and fluid discharge.

Your skin can have a reaction to an infection, allergy, toxin or a drug. A rash can even be caused by a systemic disease, such as the flu. With so many causes and types of rashes, they can be hard to distinguish. Although we are just scratching the surface with rashes, here are common rashes and their symptoms courtesy of Mayo Clinic.

  • Eczema, formally known as atopic dermatitis, is a condition that makes your skin red and itchy. It's very common in children but it can occur at any age. Atopic dermatitis is long-lasting (chronic) and tends to flare periodically.
  • A Christmas tree rash, or pityriasis rosea, sometimes resembles a Christmas tree when it breaks out, normally on your back. This rash resembles hives, but it’s uniquely caused by a viral infection.
  • Contact dermatitis is a red, itchy rash caused by direct contact with a substance or an allergic reaction to it. This can be can happen when new jewelry or clothing is worn, and your body has a reaction to its materials.
  • A drug rash is caused by an allergic reaction to a drug that is either injected or taken by mouth.  Normally a drug rash is red, itchy and resembles hives.
  • A heat rash, also known as miliaria, is caused by blocked skin ducts in hot or humid weather. Heat rash looks red with white bumps of sweat and creates a prickly sensation with red bumps.

Keeping a close eye on your skin can help you notice skin conditions more quickly. If you are ever unsure about a mole or any bumps and lumps found on your skin, contact your INTEGRIS dermatologist. They’ll be able to help treat your skin problems before they get out of hand.