Psoriasis is a common chronic skin condition many believe to be an autoimmune disorder. It causes the life cycle of skin cells to proceed abnormally fast, so the body can’t get rid of the dead skin cells, which means they then pile up in scaly, itchy, reddened patches. Psoriasis can also affect the nails and cause a type of arthritis called psoriatic arthritis. It can range in severity from affecting just a few patches of skin to covering large parts of the body. There are also five types of psoriasis, each with different symptoms. One problem in treating psoriasis is correctly diagnosing it, since it has a lot of look-alikes, ranging from benign conditions, such as eczema or acne to dangerous diseases, like basal cell carcinoma. In general, skin conditions tend to have similar symptoms, like rashes or red and inflamed areas. With this in mind, if you have a sore, rash, or other skin problem that doesn’t respond to home care and shows no signs of going away after a couple of weeks, get a dermatologist to check it out to make sure you don’t have psoriasis or any of the other following nasty skin diseases.
Actinic keratosis (AK), also called solar keratosis, is a scaly and crusty growth. It is sometimes also called a 'pre-cancer,' because untreated actinic keratoses often develop into skin cancer. They are particularly likely to evolve into squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), which is the second most common type of skin cancer.
Doctors often speak of AKs in the plural, for most patients don’t have just one. Actinic keratoses are typically caused by exposure to too many ultraviolet rays, whether from the sun or a tanning booth, so they tend to develop on places that get a lot of exposure to UV rays, like the face, hands, forearms, or shoulders. AKs are so small when they first develop, so much so the patient is more likely to feel them rather than see them. To begin, they will feel a tiny patch of rough skin, and as they get bigger, AKs resemble warts as they are elevated and have a rough texture.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Skin cancer is perhaps the most common cancer in the world, and basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer. Over four million cases are diagnosed each year in the United States alone.
The basal cells where cancer develops are the deepest layer of the epidermis. There are five warning signs of BCC, and many cases of BCC have at least two. These warning signs include a persistent open sore, a patch of red or inflamed skin, and a shiny bump or nodule. Patients should also watch for a pink growth with an indented, crusted center and a raised border, as well as a pale, waxy, or yellowish area that looks like a scar.
Basal cell cancers are easy to treat when caught early. Untreated BCCs, however, can become large enough to damage neighboring tissues and cause disfigurement.
A carbuncle is a type of skin abscess that forms when a group of boils develops under the skin. A boil, in turn, is a pus-filled infection that develops around a hair follicle. Such skin abscesses usually develop on the face, neck, armpits, buttocks, or thighs. Adolescents, young adults, and people with weakened immune systems are the most likely to develop boils.
Boils, which are also sometimes called furuncles, are inflamed red or pink bumps and are usually painful. As the boil grows, it becomes filled with pus. In some cases, the boil goes away on its own by bursting and then healing. If the boil persists for over two weeks, however, or is accompanied by a fever, it’s time to call the doctor. People taking immunosuppressants or who have diseases like cancer or diabetes should always have their boils examined by a doctor.
As a group of boils, a carbuncle is much bigger and can have a diameter of up to four inches. The bacterium Staphylococcus aureus most commonly causes it. The infection is often accompanied by a high fever, exhaustion, and weakness.
Cellulitis is a common skin infection usually caused by Streptococcus or Staphylococcus bacteria. While it can develop anywhere on the body, it is most common on the lower leg. If left untreated, cellulitis can spread to tissues beneath the skin’s surface, like the circulatory or lymphatic systems, and become life-threatening.
The infection initially looks like a swollen red area that is tender, painful, and hot. The patient may also develop a quick-growing rash or sore, and their skin may become glossy and tight. Other symptoms include fever, fatigue, dizziness, muscle aches, lightheadedness, chills, sweating, and shaking.
The patient needs to call a doctor immediately if they develop blisters or red streaks, or if they feel lethargic or drowsy. Such symptoms indicate the infection could be spreading.
Impetigo is the most common bacterial skin infection in small children between two and five years old who live in Canada, northern Europe, and the northern United States. It is caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes.
There are two main types of impetigo: bullous and nonbullous. The latter is the more common type and affects about seventy percent of patients. In most cases, the patient develops small red blisters around the nose or mouth. The blisters eventually burst, producing pus or fluid, and leave thick, golden-brown crusts behind that soon dry and heal. The blisters generally don’t hurt, but they can be quite itchy. It is essential to make sure the patient doesn’t scratch them, so they don’t spread the infection to others or other parts of their body.
Aureus typically causes the bullous type, which usually affects toddlers or even younger kids. The bacteria produce a toxin that attacks a protein that helps the skin’s layers stay together. The patient develops medium-sized or large blisters on their arms, legs, and around their diaper. The blisters don’t hurt, but they are itchy and red. They eventually burst, leave a yellowish crust, and soon heal. In addition to the blisters, the patient often has swollen glands and a high fever.