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Glossary of Skin Conditions

Acne is the term for pimples and complexion problems which occur in young people and some adults. Pimples usually occur on the face, but may involve the neck, chest, back and upper arms. Acne is only a skin problem and does not affect your general health. Acne Myths

Sun Spots (age spots)
Sun spots (age spots), also known as lentigines, are harmless, flat, brown discolorations of the skin which usually occur on the back of the hands, neck and face of people older than 40 years of age. These spots more than anything else, give away a person's age. Sun spots are caused by the skin being exposed to the sun over many years and are a sign of sun damage.

There are many different types of angiomas. An angioma is a benign tumor that consists of small blood vessels. These tumors can be located anywhere on the body. Some of the different types include: spider angiomas, cherry angiomas, and senile angiomas.

Athlete's Foot (tinea pedis)
Tinea pedis or athlete's foot is a skin infection caused by a kind of mold called a fungus. The fungus causing tinea pedis prefers moist, warm skin; this is why tinea pedis favors the folds between the toes and is often worse in hot weather. In some people tinea pedis can get so bad that blisters form. Not all foot rashes are tinea pedis, only those caused by fungus growing on the skin.

Atopic dermatitis (atopic eczema or eczema) is a name given to a stubborn, itchy rash that occurs in certain people with sensitive or irritable skin. Eczema is common in infants and young children, and may disappear before adulthood. Eczema may clear for years, only to reappear later--often on the hands.

Basal Cell Carcinoma
A basal cell carcinoma is a form of skin cancer. Basal cell carcinomas are the result of sun damage to the skin. Basal cell carcinomas enlarge slowly and steadily and can invade neighboring tissue, like the eye, but they usually do not spread to distant parts of the body (metastasize). The only way to tell for sure if a skin growth is cancerous is to biopsy it. This involves removing small piece of the skin and having a pathologist look at it under the microscope in a medical laboratory. A biopsy does not remove the cancer, it only takes off the very top (like the tip of an iceberg). Sometimes the skin will heal after the biopsy because it grows over the cancer. This does not mean the cancer is gone, it means the cancer is now covered with a blanket of skin. If the cancer is not removed completely it can go deep into the skin and cause great harm.

Bateman's Purpura
Bateman's purpura refers to flat, irregular, purple lesions that appear on your skin as you get older. These lesions usually occur on the back of the hands and the forearms. The skin appears thin and wrinkly, almost flimsy looking. They are common, but not dangerous.

Berloque Dermatitis
Berloque Dermatitis is a skin condition in which patients develop a brownish to reddish discoloration of the neck and sometimes the arms due to applying perfume or cologne to the skin. Sometimes the skin first turns red before changing to a brownish color. This condition can persist for years or even be permanent.

Boils (furuncle, carbuncle)
Boils are painful swellings of the skin caused by deep skin infection with bacteria. Boils begin as red, tender swellings, which may later ooze pus. Some people have recurrent boils.

Bullous Pemphigoid
Bullous pemphigoid is a blistering disease that usually occurs in people over fifty years of age. The blisters are large and can occur anywhere on the skin but are more common on the skin fold areas such as the groin and armpits. Bullous pemphigoid can also involve the mouth. The disease is rarely life-threatening.

Candida, or Monilia, is a skin rash caused by a yeast living on normal skin in 80% of all people. In most people, the presence of this yeast on the skin is not visible. In some people, for unknown reasons, the yeast grows more actively and causes a red, itchy, scaling rash. The yeast likes warm moist areas and usually grows in the skin folds under the breast, stomach, and arm pits.

Cold Sores Herpes Simplex
Herpes simplex is commonly referred to as cold sores or fever blisters. It is a viral infection of the skin that may occur once or return again and again. This is because when the virus is cleared from the skin by the immune system it hides in the nerves and is never completely removed from the body. Herpes infections are very common. It is estimated that nine out of ten people have been exposed to herpes. Many people are infected and don't even know it. Unfortunately those who carry herpes can spread the disease without knowing it.

Cradle Cap
A form of seborrhea, commonly found in infants, cradle cap is an inflammatory scaling disease of the scalp. Like dandruff, scales and/or flakes can appear in the eyebrows, around the nose and behind the ear.

A cyst is a harmless sac-like growth in the deeper layers of the skin, which is filled with a soft, whitish brown material that sometimes oozes onto the skin surface.

Darier Disease
Darier disease is a stubborn rash which usually runs in families. The rash often starts when one is a teenager. It most commonly affects the chest, neck, back, ears, forehead, and groin, but may involve other body areas. At times the rash will cause a bad odor. This disease can also cause the fingernails to be fragile at the tips causing V-shaped notches at the end of the nails.

Dry Skin
Xerosis is the term for dry skin. We all have a natural oil coating over our skin produced by the skin oil glands. If this oil is removed, then the skin becomes dry which can lead to cracking, which can lead to inflammation. Xerosis is usually a long-term problem that recurs often, especially in the winter.

Dishidrotic Dermatitis
Dishidrotic dermatitis (pompholyx) is a form of hand eczema more common in women which starts on the sides of the fingers as itchy little bumps and then develops into a rash. The condition can also affect only the feet. Some patients have it in both the hands and feet.

Folliculitis is a bacterial infection of the hair follicles or the skin surrounding the hair. This condition is fairly common. Staphylococcus aureus are the most common bacteria that cause folliculitis. It is not known why these bacteria infect the hair follicles. Contact with oils, tar and grease can make one more susceptible to folliculitis. Tight or occlusive clothing such as polyester can contribute to the development of folliculitis. Heat and sweating are also factors that can contribute to folliculitis. Some people are born with a tendency to development folliculitis. If you are one of these people you may have to continue
treatment to prevent recurrences.

Sebaceous Hyperplasia and Fordyce's Condition
Sebaceous hyperplasia is a skin condition in which a person develops small, yellowish growths, usually on the face. A variant of this condition, known as Fordyce's condition causes tiny yellow dots in groups and sometimes in sheets on the lips, inside the mouth, and sometimes on the genital skin. In both conditions, the small, yellow spots represent an overgrowth of sebaceous glands. Neither sebaceous hyperplasia or Fordyce's condition is dangerous.

Grover's Disease
Grover's disease, or transient acantholytic dermatosis, is a common itchy rash. The rash usually takes the form of small red bumps on the chest, stomach, back and sometimes the arms and legs.

Halo Nevus
A halo nevus is a mole that is pink or brown surrounded by an area of white or light skin. The halo is depigmented which means it has lost the normal skin pigment or color. Halo nevi are usually seen in young people. The mole portion tends to flatten and may disappear completely. The white area may stay if the mole disappears, or the normal skin color may return. Halo nevi are not dangerous or contagious, but they are sometimes a sign that something is wrong with the skin.

Hand Dermatitis
Hand dermatitis (hand eczema) is common. Hand rashes usually result from a combination of sensitive skin and irritation or an allergic reaction from materials touched. People with hand dermatitis often have dermatitis elsewhere, and frequently blood relatives have hand dermatitis.

"Prickly heat" or miliaria is a common rash caused by sweat retention.

Herpes Zoster (shingles)
Shingles (herpes zoster) is a nerve infection caused by the chicken-pox virus. Shingles results from reactivation of the chicken-pox virus that remained in your body since you had chicken pox--perhaps many years ago.The rash of shingles begins as red patches that soon develop blisters, often on one side of the body. The blisters may remain smallor can become large. They heal in two to four weeks. They may leave scars. Many patients mistakenly believe that "nervousness" causes shingles--this is wrong; shingles is a viral infection of a nerve and has nothing to do with being "nervous." Shingles is often painful, this is because the virus travels along the nerve to get to the skin resulting in inflammation and damage to the nerve.

Hives are itching red welts or small bumps that last for 15 minutes to several hours. They usually appear suddenly and leave no trace when they disappear. Crops of hives may appear several times a day, they may even last for weeks, sometimes longer. Hives are harmless except when they cause throat swelling; this is rare but requires immediate treatment.

Hyperhidrosis is the medical term for excessive sweating. The problem may be limited to the armpits, but often the palms and soles of feet sweat excessively also. Excessive sweating becomes noticeable after puberty. Stressful situations such as examinations, job interviews, or an important date will aggravate the sweating. Most over-the-counter antiperspirants do not control hyperhidrosis.

Blotchy, brown spots on the skin.

Ichthyosis is a skin disorder which causes the formation of dry, fish-like scales on the skin's surface. The condition often begins in early childhood and is usually lifelong. People with ichthyosis have a defect in their skin which causes it to lose moisture. We do not know what this defect is.

Impetigo is a skin infection caused by bacteria. It is most common in children and is contagious. Impetigo forms round, crusted, oozing spots that grow larger day by day. The hands and face are the favorite locations for impetigo, but it often appears on other parts of the body. While the bacteria causing impetigo may have been caught from someone else with impetigo or boils, impetigo usually begins out of the blue without any apparent source of infection.

A keloid is a greatly enlarged scar that projects above the skin surface. The skin heals by formation of scar tissue, which at first is often red and somewhat prominent. As the months pass, a scar usually becomes flat. Sometimes scars enlarge to form firm, smooth, hard growths called keloids.

Keratoacanthoma is a type of skin cancer confined to the skin. These skin tumors grow from the hair follicle and usually grow quickly. They are more common in men. Causes: Sunlight is thought to be a factor in the development of keratoacanthomas. Keratoacanthomas are more common in people who smoke. Sometimes minor trauma to the skin occurs before the development of a keratoacanthoma.

Keratosis pilaris
Keratosis pilaris is a common skin condition which is usually characterized by small bumps on the back of the arms. It often occurs in people who have rough dry skin.

Lichen planus
Lichen planus is rash that can be very itchy and stubborn. It usually involves the wrists, ankles, genitals and mouth but can affect any part of the body. It occurs with equal frequency in both sexes and amongst all races.

Lichen Simplex Chronicus
Lichen simplex chronicus is a name given to a stubborn itchy rash that occurs in certain people with sensitive or irritable skin; it is also known as localized eczema.

Discoid Lupus Erythematosus
Discoid lupus erythematosus is a chronic skin condition characterized by inflammation and scarring type skin lesions which occur on the, face, ears, scalp and at times on other body areas. These lesions develop as an inflamed growth with scaling and a wart-like appearance. The center areas may appear lighter in color surrounded by an area darker than the normal skin. When lesions occur in hairy areas such as the scalp, permanent scarring and hair loss can occur. A small percentage of patients with discoid lupus can develop disease of the internal organs.

Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is transmitted by ticks that feed on deer and small rodents, such as field mice. The ticks can attach themselves to humans and pierce the skin for a blood-meal. As they feed, they infect humans with spirochetes (spiral bacteria) that spread outwardly, causing the red, circular, and expanding rash characteristic of many, but not all cases of early Lyme disease.

Melasma or chloasma is a brownish discoloration of the face that occurs most often in women. Men can also develop this problem. The brown color often fades in winter and gets worse in the summer. Pregnancy (mask of pregnancy) is the most common cause of melasma. Women who are taking oral contraceptives are at risk of developing melasma. Sunlight is a major factor in the development of melasma.

Melanoma or "black mole cancer" is the name given to the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Melanoma is so dangerous because once it grows to a certain thickness, it metastasizes or spreads throughout the body. Once melanoma spreads to the internal organs there is little that can be done and death follows shortly after. This type of cancer tends to occur in men and women.

Moles are harmless skin growths that may be flat or protruding. They vary in color from pink flesh tones to dark brown or black. Everyone has moles; some have a lot, others have only a few. Rarely a mole can become cancerous. If you have a mole which is marching out of step with your other moles, you should have it checked immediately by your doctor.

Molluscum contagiosum
Molluscum contagiosum consists of small, harmless growths caused by a skin virus. They resemble pimples at first. Later, when they enlarge, they have a waxy, pinkish look and a small central pit. Molluscum contagiosum can be spread from person to person by direct skin contact. It is harmless and never turns cancerous. Molluscum occurs in children and adults.

Onychomycosis is a fungal infection of the finger or toe nails. It can be very difficult to cure. Onychomycosis is caused by a fungus. Often a person has had athlete's foot for a long time prior to the development of onychomycosis. Sometimes trauma or damage to a nail predisposes to the development of onychomycosis.

Onychoschizia or splitting of the fingernails is one of the most common problems that a dermatologist sees. The term onychoschizia includes splitting, frail, soft or thin nails and nails with ridges. Onychoschizia is more common in women. Repetitive and prolonged wetting and drying of the fingernails is the single most common cause of splitting and ridging of the nails. Splitting of the nails is rarely caused by internal disease or vitamin deficiency.

Perioral Dermatitis
Perioral dermatitis is a rash composed of tiny red bumps that are primarily around the mouth, but can also be seen around the nose and on other areas of the face. Perioral dermatitis is a disease that occurs mostly in young and middle-aged women. Perioral dermatitis can be caused by prolonged therapy with topical corticosteroids (hydrocortisones). The contraceptive pill, fluorinated toothpaste, cosmetic usage and emotional stress can worsen perioral dermatitis. The affected area is often worsened by sunlight and almost always by wind, heat, chlorinated pool water and even by washing with hot water. If you have this condition, premenstrual flare ups are common.

Acne is the term for pimples and complexion problems which occur in young people and some adults. Pimples usually occur on the face, but may involve the neck, chest, back and upper arms. Acne is only a skin problem and does not affect your general health.

Plantar Warts
Plantar warts are ordinary warts of the sole, or plantar surface, of the foot. Since plantar warts are on a pressure area, they grow inward and are often tender and painful. Like other warts, they are harmless skin growths that are caused by a virus. Plantar warts are common. They may bleed if injured. Since plantar warts are caused by a virus, they are slightly contagious (can spread from person to person). You should not share clothing or linen with someone who has plantar warts. Plantar warts may spread on the body and seed other areas.

Pseudofolliculitis Barbae
Pseudofolliculitis barbae (razor bumps) is a common condition of the beard area occurring in African American men and other people with curly hair. The problem results when highly curved hairs grow back into the skin causing inflammation and a foreign body reaction. Over time, this can cause keloidal scarring which looks like hard bumps of the beard area and neck.

This skin condition most often appears on the scalp, elbows and knees. Psoriasis affects between 1-3% of the population. It varies in severity from mild to severe. Psoriasis can start at any age. Areas of the skin grow much faster than normal and form red, scaling patches. Psoriasis is itchy and unsightly, but is not contagious.

Rosacea is a common face rash of adults. Rosacea is only a skin condition and is not related to your general health. Rosacea has three stages. In the first stage the face gets red. This redness sometimes merges into the normal variants of ruddy or blushy complexions. The redness often persists after cold exposure or after exposure to irritants like soap. With time, small blood vessels develop making the redness more noticeable. Many patients will develop stinging or burning sensations and the skin will often feel tight. The skin feels like a mild sunburn with smiling, frowning, or squinting. Sometimes this progresses to the point that everything the patient puts on his or her face stings, burns, and irritates.

In the second stage of rosacea, the redness covers a larger area of the face. Slight swelling, pimples, and pustules develop. This is especially noticeable on the nose, mid-forehead, and chin. As the condition progresses, prominent facial pores can develop.

The third stage is characterized by swelling and growth of the nose and central facial areas. At times the ears may be involved as well. This can be very disfiguring. This stage is known as rhinophyma. Most patients do not progress to the third stage of rosacea.

Tinea Corporis
Tinea corporis is commonly known as "ring worm." Tinea corporis is the term used for fungal infection of the skin. The fungus causes a characteristic lesion which is often clear in the center with a rough, scaly, circular border. The lesions vary in size from very small circular patches to very large patches. Diagnosis is aided through scraping the lesion and examining the scales under the microscope.

Scabies also known as "the itch" is an intensely itching rash caused by a tiny mite (bug) that lives in the skin. Since it is only 1/60th inch long, the scabies mite is almost impossible to see without magnification. The rash usually involves the hands, wrists, breasts, genital area, and waistline. In severe cases scabies can spread to almost the entire body, but rarely the face. Scabies often resembles other rashes. The only way to find out whether you have scabies is for a doctor to scrape off a piece of skin and examine it under a microscope.

Schamberg's Disease
Schamberg's disease, or progressive pigmented purpuric dermatitis, is a chronic discoloration of the skin which usually affects the legs and often spreads slowly. This disease is more common in males and may occur at any age from childhood onward. People who develop Schamberg's disease have leaky blood vessel walls which allow red blood cells to slip through into the skin. The red cells in the skin then fall apart and release their iron which has a rust color. This accounts for the orange tint of the rash.

Scleroderma means "hard skin" and is pronounced skler-o-derma. Scleroderma is a disease that causes fibrosis (hardening) of the skin and sometimes the internal organs. Scleroderma can range in form from a localized in the skin to systemic scleroderma, a severe disease that affects the internal organs.

Seborrheic Dermatitis
Severe Dandruff. This chronic, scaly rash appears on the scalp, face, ears and chest. It is most frequently seen in the winter months on older people. It is thought by some to be caused by yeast growing on the skin and it is believed those who have it are genetically predisposed to the condition. While there is no cure, treatment to lessen the appearance includes special shampoos and topical ointments.

Seborrheic Keratoses ("barnacles of aging")
Seborrheic keratoses are harmless, common skin growths that first appear during adult life. As time goes by, more growths appear. Seborrheic keratoses appear on both covered and uncovered parts of the body. These growths are sometimes referred to as barnacles of aging. Seborrheic keratoses are harmless and almost never become malignant. Begin as slightly raised, light brown spots. Gradually they thicken and take on a rough, wartlike surface. They slowly darken and may turn black. These color changes are harmless. Seborrheic keratoses are superficial and look as if they were stuck on the skin.

Solar Keratoses
A solar or actinic keratosis is a precancerous skin growth caused by sun damage. Solar keratoses are difficult to see, they feel rough and are sometimes scaly. Solar keratoses are not skin cancer, but if left untreated they can turn into skin cancer.

Squamous Cell (carcinoma of the skin)
A squamous cell carcinoma of the skin is a form of skin cancer which is usually the result of long-term sun damage to the skin. Squamous cell carcinomas enlarge slowly and steadily and can invade neighboring tissue, like the eye. They can also spread to distant parts of the body (metastasize) if not treated early. The only way to tell for sure if a skin growth is cancerous is to biopsy it.

Telogen Effluvium
Telogen effluvium is an abnormal loss of hair due to alteration of the normal hair cycle. Hair growth occurs in a cycle which is divided into three phases: a growth phase, a regression phase and a resting phase. Different hairs are in different stages of the cycle at any one time. Normally, most of the hairs are in the growth stage and only one hundred hairs per day fall from the scalp. When telogen effluvium occurs, a greater proportion of the hairs enter the resting phase of the cycle and hair shedding is greater than normal. During pregnancy, more hair follicles are maintained in the growth phase. After pregnancy, a greater proportion of these hairs go into the resting phase, causing a temporary self-correcting increased shedding of the hair. The same phenomenon can be seen after stopping birth control pills, stress, medications or chronic illnesses.

Tinea Versicolor
Tinea versicolor is a chronic skin condition caused by a yeast living on normal skin of all people. In most people, the presence of this yeast on the skin is not visible. In some people, for unknown reasons, the yeast grows more actively and causes an itchy scaling rash. People who have tinea versicolor are genetically predisposed to developing a rash when this germ is present on the skin. When the yeast grows on untanned skin, the rash is pink to brown. When the yeast grows on tanned skin, the rash looks white
because the yeast blocks out the sunlight and the skin where the yeast is growing, does not tan. When growing on Asian or African-American skin, the rash can look darker or lighter than the surrounding skin depending on the patient.

Urticaria (hives)
Hives are itching red welts or small bumps that last for 15 minutes to several hours. They usually appear suddenly and leave no trace when they disappear. Crops of hives may appear several times a day, they may even last for weeks, sometimes longer. Hives are harmless except when they cause throat swelling; this is rare but requires immediate treatment. Hives can be caused by something taken internally, most often a medicine such as penicillin or aspirin. Sometimes foods cause hives; shellfish and strawberries are well-known examples. Hives are also sometimes caused by infection.

Urticaria Pigmentosa
Urticaria pigmentosa is an uncommon rash that usually affects the neck, arms, legs and trunk of children and young adults. The rash consists of reddish-brown spots that turn into hives when they are rubbed hard or scratched. Sometimes the spots will blister.

Vitiligo is a common skin disorder in which white spots appear on the skin usually occurring on both sides of the body in the same location. The disease has been around for thousands of years. Vitiligo occurs in 1-2% of the population. It affects both sexes, all races and all ages.

Warts are harmless skin growths caused by a virus. They have a rough surface on which tiny dark specks may be seen. They may grow on any part of the body and their appearance depends on their location. Warts in the genital or rectal area have a wet appearance and have been said to look like cauliflower.

Xanthomas occur on the eye lids, usually on both sides. They are yellow, soft, and slightly raised bumps. Xanthomas are made of cholesterol deposits and are fairly common on the eyelids. Sometimes they can occur suddenly on other areas of the body. These are called eruptive xanthomas and are a sign that blood fat levels are too high. If one gets eruptive xanthomas a physician should be consulted as soon as possible.

Source: Mitchell C. Stickler, M.D., Board Certified Dermatologist