A rash is inflammation of the skin that can affect its color, appearance or texture. Rashes may cause the skin to become red, itchy, bumpy, dry, cracked, blistered, or swollen, and may be painful. Rashes can affect localized or large areas of the skin.
There are many causes of rashes. Yet the symptoms of many rashes are similar, which can make them a challenge to diagnosis and treat. Treatment will focus on relieving symptoms while we find the cause of the rash. Often rashes will disappear on their own in several days, or may be relieved with simple lotions and creams. Other rashes may require prescription medications; some do not resolve until we find a cause that can be treated.
Some common rashes:
- Contact Dermatitis:
Contact dermatitis occurs when the skin touches something that is an irritant or allergen. A contact rash generally occurs within 48 hours of contact.
A common example of contact dermatitis is poison oak or poison ivy. Other common examples include: soaps, detergents, perfumes, cosmetics, jewelry, certain fabrics, or latex. Usually rashes caused by allergy or irritants only affect the area of the skin that came in contact with the rash-causing material. Symptoms generally include: inflammation of the skin, redness, small bumps, and itch. We test for allergens with a process called Patch Testing. Treatment involves avoiding the irritant or allergen and treating the rash until the reaction has run its course.
- Medication Reactions:
Medication reactions are very common. Medications include prescriptions you take or over the counter products. We generally do not react to a medication the first time we use it, but may develop an allergy that becomes apparent on a subsequent use. Also, you can take a medication for several years and then develop a reaction to it. It is always important to bring an updated list of current and recent medications, as well as over the counter medications and supplements to every office visit.
- Bacterial Infections:
The most common bacterial infection is impetigo, which is caused by staph or strep germs. It is more common in children than adults, and is contagious. The rash may appear as small blisters or scabs, with swollen glands nearby.
- Viral Infections:
Viral infections such as herpes, shingles, molluscum, or chicken pox, are contagious conditions that may produce a rash, generally characterized by red, itchy bumps all over the body. Patients with vial rashes may have other viral symptoms such as nausea, sneezing, and coughing. These infections usually last a few days to a week and go away on their own.
- Fungal Infections:
Final infections affect the skin and often cause rashes. For more information, see the section of the website "Medical Conditions" and click the "Fungus" link.
- Skin Conditions:
Other types of skin conditions such as acne, hives, eczema, rosacea, psoriasis and autoimmune conditions may also cause rashes. See the section of the website "Medical Conditions" for more information about these diseases.