Common Skin Conditions
Rosacea is more commonly known as “adult acne”, although many times rosacea presents as persistent facial redness without pimples. The redness with or without pimples generally occur on the central face (nose, cheeks, forehead, chin) of fair-skinned adults. Early cases of rosacea may present as a tendency to flush or blush easily, but can progress to persistent enlarged blood vessels on the face. This is a chronic condition, meaning that it cannot be cured, but it can be effectively controlled by treatment prescribed by your dermatologist. Such treatments may include topical and/or oral antibiotics, facial sunscreen, and laser surgery.
Laser Hair Removal
Many people are bothered by and want to remove hair that grows on their face, bikini line, armpits or other body parts. This can be accomplished by laser hair removal (LHR). LHR, when done correctly, can lead to permanent reduction in hair growth. It works best on dark hair growing on fair skin. The light emitted by the laser destroys the hair follicle so regrowth is not possible. Several treatments are required on any area. The staff at Alamance Skin Center has extensive experience in LHR.
Many people experience hair loss, especially as they age. There are many reasons why people lose hair. The age at which hair loss begins is often determined by genetics – if your parents lost hair early you might too. Other reasons for early or sudden hair loss include physical or emotional stress, reaction to medication, nutritional deficiencies, thyroid disease, low blood levels or overly aggressive hair care. Dermatologists are specialists in diseases of the hair, as well as skin, and can help diagnosis and treatment hair loss.
Athlete’s foot is a type of fungal infection affecting the skin on the feet. It is a common infection and may present as persistent dry scaling of the soles of the feet, or as moist peeling of the skin between the toes. Other times the fungus can cause redness, itching and even blisters. This fungus prefers a warm, moist environment in order to grow, so it is important to keep feet as dry as possible to prevent athlete’s foot. If an infection develops, it can be treated with topical antifungal medications, although if it infects the toenails, an oral prescription medication may be necessary.
Poison ivy is an allergic contact rash caused by the urushiol oil from sap of poison ivy, oak and sumac. This occurs by touching the plant, or touching something that has this oil on it like a pet or yard tools. The rash usually occurs within 12-48 hours after contact but may take two weeks to occur. Approximately 85% of people have poison ivy allergy. Poison ivy rash cannot be spread to another area or person unless the oil is spread. Urushiol oil can be eliminated simply by washing. The rash is best treated by prescription Cortisone medications.
Acne is caused by hormones, bacteria and heredity. Hormones rise during the teenage years to stimulate and enlarge the oil glands of the skin. The oil glands produce oil which empty onto the surface of the skin through pores. The oil mixes with cells from the lining of the pore and bacteria forming a plug in the pore that appears as a whitehead or blackhead (a blackhead is not dirt.)
Bacteria grows in the mixture of the plug and the bacteria makes chemicals that stimulates a reaction that results in redness, swelling and pus formation, commonly called a pimple. Acne is not caused by the foods you eat. Acne can be worsened by stress and sometimes by things that are applied to the skin. Acne can be upsetting and disfiguring and can lead to serious and permanent scarring. The treatment of acne usually includes prescription washes, surface medications and sometimes pills. New effective treatments include photodynamic therapy, a laser like treatment available at your dermatologist. Other helpful acne procedures may be recommended by your dermatologist. The most satisfactory results from acne come from a customized treatment regimen by your dermatologist.
Dermatologists use ABCDE as general guidelines for mole evaluation.
A = Asymmetry. Abnormal moles are asymmetrical B = Border. Abnormal moles have jagged or irregular border or edge. C = Color. Abnormal moles are uneven in color and may have multiple colors or variable shades of color. D = Diameter. A diameter larger than 1/3” (6mm) or more is considered an abnormal feature. E = Evolution. Any mole that has changed from its previous appearance or any symptoms of itching, burning or bleeding is considered abnormal. Any moles or skin lesions of concern are best evaluated by your dermatologist or other qualified physician.
Shingles, also known as “herpes zoster”, is a viral infection caused by the chicken pox virus. Chicken pox virus remains dormant or inactive in nerve root cells of the body and can become reactivated by stress, trauma or illness with lowering of immunity. The rash is characterized by burning, pain, tingling, or extreme sensitivity in one area of the skin. This then progresses to a red, linear, rash that turns into a group of blisters, usually only on one side of the body. Shingles usually occurs only once and seldom recurs. It is best treated with prescription medications.
Sunlight exposure/tanning booth use can cause problems on the skin including skin cancer, wrinkling, sunburn, brown spots, thinning of the skin and small red blood vessels. For sun protection dermatologists recommend:
- Using a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15 on all exposed skin. If sweating or swimming, use a water resistant sunscreen.
- Wearing a broad brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sun protective clothing.
- Staying in a shaded area.
- Not Planningoutdoor activities between 10am to 4pm. If you develop any of the potential side effects associated with sun exposure, contact your dermatologist.
Warts are growths caused by a viral infection. They commonly appear on the hands, the fingers, the sole of the foot, the lower legs and the face. They are spread from person to person. There are many different types of warts, depending on the exact virus that causes the growth. For example, plantar warts, on the bottom of the foot, are caused by a different virus than flat warts on the face. Warts are treated by destroying the infected skin. The most effective treatments are administered by dermatologists and include liquid nitrogen, immunotherapy and bleomycin.
One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. There are three main types of skin cancer – basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma. BCC is the most common type of skin cancer. BCCs rarely spread beyond the skin while melanomas can be lethal. All of these cancers may develop as a direct result of sun exposure and skin type. The fairer a person’s skin, the more at risk they are for skin cancer. Dermatologists are physicians trained to recognize and treat skin cancers.
Psoriasis is a skin disease that affects 1-2% of the population. The classic psoriasis lesion is a sharply demarcated, raised red plaque, covered with silvery-scales. The elbows, knees and scalp are commonly affected. Some patients also develop arthritis. Psoriasis can run in families but other factors are also involved in who develops the disease. There is no cure for psoriasis but your dermatologist can prescribe creams, pills, or injectable medicines to control it.
Itching, which dermatologists call pruritus, is the sensation that provokes scratching. It can be localized, generalized, constant or episodic. It is thought that something in the body triggers a release of a body chemical, such as histamine, that causes itching. Itching can be a symptom of dermatologic disease or a systemic disorder. Examples of skin disease which result in itching are extreme dryness, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, bug bites and hives. Systemic conditions associated with itching include diabetes, hepatitis, pregnancy, thyroid disease, and kidney disease. Severe itching should be evaluated by a physician.
BOTOX® is used for the temporary relief of facial lines and wrinkles. BOTOX® works by immobilizing certain muscles, which smoothes out the overlying skin. Good areas for treatment include the areas between the eyebrows, the forehead and the crow’s feet. Treatment consists of several small injections. There are virtually no side effects after treatment. The results last 3 – 6 months and produce a more youthful, more restful appearance. The dermatologists at Alamance Skin Center are experienced with Botox® and can evaluate if you are a good candidate for treatment.
Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema)
Atopic dermatitis (AD) is an intensely itchy, chronic skin disease commonly first seen in childhood. AD results from an imbalance in the immune system, caused by inherited and environmental influences. 50% of children with AD develop either asthma or allergies. A person with AD can have red, flaky, scratched patches of skin. The neck, elbows, wrists, and knees are commonly affected. Preventing flares of AD requires gentle skin care with use of moisturizer. Although AD cannot be cured, most people see improvement as they get older. Prescription medicines are used to relieve the symptoms and control outbreaks.
Actinic Keratosis (Pre-Cancer)
An actinic keratosis (or AK) is a pre-cancer that generally arises in areas of skin that have been damaged from long term sun exposure. These lesions are commonly seen in fair skinned individuals, especially on head, neck, arms, and backs of hands. AKs generally appear as pink, scaly spots that are persistent. AKs are easily treated by a dermatologist. If untreated, they could turn into a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma (or BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer. It generally arises in sun-exposed areas of skin. BCC is the least aggressive type of skin cancer for two reasons. It is very slow growing and it typically does not spread beyond the skin (does not metastasize). A BCC can appear as a pearly, pink bump that slowly enlarges or bleeds. Like any other skin cancer, a BCC does not heal on its own. It can be disfiguring if not treated. It is usually treated by an outpatient surgical procedure by your dermatologist.
A dysplastic nevus is an abnormal mole, but is a benign lesion and not cancer. Dysplastic nevi (or atypical moles) do have a relatively low potential to turn into a skin cancer called melanoma. Atypical moles can be inherited (run in families). Having a dysplastic nevus puts you at a higher risk of developing a melanoma over your lifetime. Therefore, regular skin checks by your dermatologists and sun protection are recommended.
“Winter Itch” is itching caused by dry skin. It is most common on the lower legs, but can occur anywhere on the body. It is most commonly seen during the colder times of the year, because of indoor heating and decreased humidity. “Winter Itch” can be treated by using moisturizing creams more regularly. These are especially effective when applied after showering.
Scabies is a human infestation of mites. This mite cannot be seen with the naked eye and lives in the very top layer of skin. It can cause a rash and severe itching. It is contagious and can spread by close human contact, similar to what occurs within households. It is not associated with lack of cleanliness. It is easily treated by a prescription cream. All members of the household need to be treated to eradicate the infestation.
Tanning, for any reason, is not a healthy practice. Tanning is a result of damage that has occurred in the skin. Sunlight causes mutations in the DNA of skin cells. The body tries to repair these mutations and in the process produces more pigment in the skin. Unfortunately, a tan only offers the equivalent of an SPF 8, which is not sufficient to protect the skin. DNA damage can still occur even in the absence of sunburn. This damage can eventually lead to wrinkling and permanent freckling of the skin and possible formation of skin cancer.