Common Skin Conditions
The skin is the human body’s largest organ and our immune system’s first line of defense. It is essential to keep it in optimal shape and have it routinely checked by a dermatologist for skin conditions that can be hard to identify. There are hundreds of skin diseases which can vary in appearance and many evolve over time—making them even harder to diagnose and treat. Some people are at higher risks of developing common skin conditions than others. At your appointment, your doctor can share more insight into your specific risks and teach you about what types of changes to watch for in your skin.
What to Expect at Your Appointment
When you visit our office for a skin check, you can discuss with your dermatologist any concerns you have about your skin.
If you already have a rash, bump or other skin concern, your doctor will cover the following at your appointment:
- History: Your doctor will want to know more about the timing of the onset of your skin condition and the location where it began. It is always helpful if you can share information about your family’s history with common skin conditions, your allergies, your occupation and lifestyle and whether you have had previous treatment.
- Exam: Next, you will be given a gown and your dermatologist will examine all of your skin—both normal and abnormal. This will help determine if there are any other underlying skin conditions and identify any potential skin cancers.
- Testing: Depending on your skin condition, we may consider diagnostic testing measures including biopsies, skin scrapings and laboratory testing. A patch test can also be performed to rule out allergic reactions.
- Plan: A therapy plan will be developed based on your unique lifestyle, goals and skin type. Many factors are considered when developing a treatment plan, including the physical location of the skin condition on your body, your skin type and occupation. Our goal is for your treatment to not limit your daily activities while also being effective.
Types of Common Skin Conditions
Acne is the most common skin condition in the United States, affecting up to 50 million Americans annually. It most commonly affects teenagers and young adults, with approximately 85 percent of people between the ages of 12 and 24 experiencing at least minor acne. While many people believe acne is simply a rite of passage that must be endured, it can be treated easily. If you are experiencing acne, your dermatologist may prescribe topical treatments and special face washes to help clear the inflamed bumps, cysts or nodules. For more severe cases, isotretinoin (Accutane) may be prescribed.
Many of our adult patients also struggle with acne, which can be caused by hormonal imbalances, medication side effects, stress or family history. If you have adult acne, we will determine its cause, including reviewing your diet, medications and lifestyle. We also offer a variety of high-strength skincare products designed to treat adult acne. Your dermatologist may also recommend Forever Clear BBL™, a blue light treatment which targets the bacteria contributing to acne followed by infrared light to reduce inflammation and scarring left by current and old acne lesions.
Eczema is an autoimmune disorder that results in uncomfortable patches of red, flaky skin. Although eczema is a common skin condition (one in 10 people will develop eczema in their lifetime), scientists are still unsure why it occurs, although it is likely genetic. Eczema can be extremely uncomfortable due to a persistent itch that it commonly creates, which can be worsened when triggered by allergies like pet dander, sweat, infection and more.
Although eczema is incurable and may come and go on its own, our dermatologists can develop a customized treatment plan that may include prescription topicals or an injection called DUPIXENT®. We also recommend Narrowband UVB therapy for eczema patients, which uses the most healing component of natural sunlight to treat a variety of skin diseases, including eczema. This therapy works by shutting down the overactive immune cells of the skin that are causing eczema.
Psoriasis is a common skin condition affecting approximately 7.5 million people in the United States. It is a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes an excessive buildup of skin cells that create scaly, thickened and discolored patches that can feel itchy. Psoriasis is a genetic condition and scientists are still unsure of its exact cause. Your dermatologist may be able to help you pinpoint what triggers a flare-up, such as hormone changes or environmental factors.
We typically develop a multi-modal treatment plan for psoriasis based on the type, location and severity of your outbreaks and your age and lifestyle. Different types of treatment may include light therapy, or oral retinoids.
Seborrheic Dermatitis is a common skin condition that mainly affects the scalp. Symptoms commonly include skin flakes (dandruff) in the scalp, hair, eyebrows beard or mustache. It can also cause patches of greasy skin covered in scales or crust on the scalp, face, sides of the nose, eyebrows, eyelids, ears, chest, armpits, groin area or under the breasts. These areas could become reddened or itchy. If you believe you may have seborrheic dermatitis, it is important to schedule an appointment to rule out psoriasis, rosacea, eczema or tinea versicolor. Your dermatologist may recommend a variety of treatment options including creams, shampoos or ointments that control inflammation. There are also antifungal medications in pill form that can help to clear up seborrheic dermatitis.
Hives are welts on the skin that often itch. They can appear in any size on any part of the skin and often go away on their own. Often resulting from an allergy or stress, hives can also cause the eyelids and lips to swell. They can appear within minutes of exposure to the trigger, or a delayed reaction of more than two hours can happen. Although challenging, your dermatologist can help you determine the trigger for your hives by conducting allergy tests, blood work or a skin biopsy. Hives are treatable through prescription antihistamines, corticosteroids and antibiotics.
Dermatitis is a term used to describe a variety of skin conditions presenting as red, itchy and dry skin. Some serious cases of dermatitis involve cracked or oozing blisters. Examples of this condition are atopic dermatitis (eczema), dandruff or contact dermatitis (when your skin comes into contact with a substance that is an irritant). Dermatitis is not contagious and highly treatable through medicated ointments, creams or shampoos.
Actinic Keratosis is a crusty, scaly growth caused by damage from exposure to ultraviolet radiation. It is considered to be a pre-cancerous growth because if left alone, it could develop into skin cancer. They can typically be felt before they are seen, identifiable by feeling as if you are running your finger over sandpaper. Your dermatologist can treat actinic keratoses in the comfort of our office by quickly freezing them with liquid nitrogen. The pre-cancerous tissues simply slough off when they thaw.
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. People who have fair skin are at the highest risk of developing this type of skin cancer, although people with darker skin can also develop it. It appears on the skin as a flesh-colored, pearl-like bump or a pinkish patch of skin. It is found most commonly on areas of the body with the most sunlight exposure, such as the head, neck, and arms; however, it can form anywhere on the body. If left untreated, basal cell carcinomas can spread into surrounding tissues underneath the skin's surface and grow into nerves and bones.
Basal cell carcinomas, when detected early on, can sometimes be treated in our office by freezing them with liquid nitrogen. The cancerous tissues simply slough off when they thaw. We also routinely perform excisional surgery to cut out cancerous tissues and those surrounding it. For larger areas of skin affected by basal cell carcinoma, we can perform Mohs micrographic surgery, which is an advanced method of skin cancer treatment and removal offering the highest cure rate available. Mohs surgeries are performed in the comfort of our office by our fellowship-trained Mohs surgeon who has performed more than 25,000 cases over 14 years.
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer. Similar to basal cell carcinoma, it most commonly appears in fair-skinned people, but can also develop in darker-skinned people. It usually looks like a red firm bump, scaly patch or a sore that heals and then re-opens. Squamous cell carcinomas tend to form on areas of the skin with high sun exposure, such as the rim of the ear, face, neck, arms, chest and back. If left untreated, it can grow deep into the skin and cause damage or disfigurement.
Squamous cell carcinomas, when detected early on, can sometimes be treated in our office by freezing them with liquid nitrogen. The cancerous tissues simply slough off when they thaw. We also routinely perform excisional surgery to cut out cancerous tissues and those surrounding it. For larger areas of skin affected by squamous cell carcinoma, we can perform Mohs micrographic surgery, which is an advanced method of skin cancer treatment and removal offering the highest cure rate available. Mohs surgeries are performed in the comfort of our office by our fellowship-trained Mohs surgeon who has performed more than 25,000 cases over 14 years.
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. It frequently develops as a mole or suddenly appears as a new dark spot. Melanomas can also be skin-colored, pink, red, purple, blue or white. They are generally asymmetrical in shape and have uneven borders and a variety of colors. Melanomas are usually larger in diameter than a pencil eraser and tend to evolve into different shapes or colors over time. If melanoma is discovered and treated early, it is almost always curable. However, if the cancer advances and spreads to other parts of the body, it can be fatal. While it is not the most common form of skin cancer, it is certainly the deadliest.
Melanomas, when detected early on, can sometimes be treated in our office by freezing them with liquid nitrogen. The cancerous tissues simply slough off when they thaw. We also routinely perform excisional surgery to cut out cancerous tissues and those surrounding it. For larger areas of skin affected by melanoma, we can perform Mohs micrographic surgery, which is an advanced method of skin cancer treatment and removal offering the highest cure rate available. Mohs surgeries are performed in the comfort of our office by our fellowship-trained Mohs surgeon who has performed more than 25,000 cases over 14 years.
Solar lentigo is a harmless darkened patch of skin, such as a dark freckle, that is caused by exposure to ultraviolet rays. While they may be benign, they should be considered an early warning sign of excessive sun exposure. They are often called “age spots” or “liver spots,” and usually appear as round or oval-shaped flat patches of darkened skin. They are found in groups on sun-exposed areas of the body, particularly the backs of hands or the face. Solar lentigo spots can be faded or sometimes erased through laser skin resurfacing treatments or phototherapy, such as HALO™, DenaVe or BBL™.
Seborrheic keratosis is a common skin growth that can range in appearance from a wart-like lesion to a small brown spot. These growths are not contagious and are considered harmless. They usually appear as a brown, black or light tan spot on the face, chest, shoulders or back. While seborrheic keratoses are normally painless and require no treatment, they can be removed if they become bothersome. Your dermatologist may even be able to remove a seborrheic keratosis during your appointment in our office by freezing it with liquid nitrogen.
An angioma is a common skin growth that can be triggered by the aging process or by hormonal changes, like pregnancy. Angiomas are benign and consist of small blood vessels. They typically appear in the form of cherry angiomas or spider angiomas and are of no concern when appearing in small numbers. When present in large numbers, angiomas can be indicative of liver damage.
Alopecia refers to hair loss typically on the scalp, although it can occur anywhere on the body. The most common form of alopecia is alopecia areata, meaning the hair loss occurs in round patches. The hair typically falls out in specific patterns, such as androgenetic alopecia (female or male-pattern baldness). Male hair loss usually begins above the temples and the receding hairline eventually forms an “M” shape. In women, androgenetic alopecia begins with gradual thinning at the part line, followed by increased hair loss radiating from the top of the head.
Alopecia is not contagious; it occurs when the immune system attacks the hair follicles, causing hair loss. Your dermatologist may suggest a variety of treatments, including Rogain, Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy or steroid injections to help stimulate new hair growth. Some men may be candidates for a PROPECIA®, an oral prescription medication indicated for the treatment of male-pattern hair loss.
Dermatology Associates of Plymouth Meeting is currently conducting a clinical trial studying alopecia areata. If you meet the criteria required to participate in this research program, you could receive free treatments and products. Schedule an appointment today to determine your eligibility.
Molluscum Contagiosum is a common skin condition caused by a virus. It usually appears as flesh-colored bumps on the skin ranging in size from a pinhead to a pencil eraser. As its name suggests, Molluscum Contagiosum is highly contagious; many adults contract this skin condition through sexual contact or a weakened immune system. The bumps will usually go away on their own within a year, but treatment from your dermatologist is also an option. Removal options include freezing with liquid nitrogen, scraping or medicine that causes blisters (cantharidin) which lift the bumps off of the skin.
Herpes Zoster is most commonly known as shingles. This is a dormant virus that lives in people who have had the chickenpox and appears in the form of a painful rash, most often forming in a single stripe of blisters that wraps around one side of your torso. Shingles occur when the virus becomes reactivated in later years. Scientists are unsure of what triggers the virus to reactiviate. While the shingles virus is not life-threatening, it can be very painful. Early treatment with prescription antiviral drugs can lessen the severity of shingles.
Herpes simplex is a common viral infection that results in mouth sores. Herpes simplex (HSV-1) is different from HSV-2, which causes genital herpes. Cold sores caused by HSV-1 can be highly contagious and are usually triggered by an infection, stress, a bad sunburn or other environmental factors. Herpes simplex can present with flu-like symptoms and the oral sores can be extremely painful. Although it is not curable, your dermatologist can prescribe soothing ointments or oral medications to shorten the length of the outbreak.
A cyst is a serious type of pimple caused by a blocked pore or swollen hair follicle in the skin. It appears as a swollen bump above the skin, with the inside containing a white pus liquid. Cysts can be caused by hormonal changes or bacteria, and they can become inflamed and tender to the touch. Your dermatologist can usually drain a cyst at your appointment in our office, or it can be injected with a steroid drug to reduce swelling.
Scabies is a common skin condition caused by the human itch mite, an eight-legged bug that is so small you cannot see it on the skin. Scabies occurs when the mites burrow into the top layer of skin to live and feed. An itchy rash develops when the skin reacts to the mites. Anyone can get scabies, including people of all ages, races and income levels—even people who are extremely neat and clean. Scabies is highly treatable, usually with a topical prescription ointment.
Warts are benign skin growths caused by a virus affecting the top layer of the dermis. They are highly contagious and can be spread through physical contact. Typically growing around the fingers, warts can also appear on other areas of the body such as the knees or elbows. They feel like rough bumps and can range in size. Warts are typically treated in our office using liquid nitrogen to freeze them, which causes a blister to form under and around the wart, which will then slough off in approximately one week. There are also prescription-strength wart medications that work by using salicylic acid to peel off layers of the wart gradually.
Moles are an extremely common type of skin growth often appearing as small, brown spots. Rarely, they can cause concern for becoming cancerous if they start to itch, bleed or change shape. Moles can develop anywhere on the body, including areas that are not regularly exposed to the sun.
Skin tags are common benign skin growths that tend to grow in areas where there are skin folds, such as the armpits, neck, eyelids and groin. They are skin-colored or brown ovoid growths attached to a fleshy stalk. Skin tags are typically only a few millimeters in size but can grow to be several centimeters. Although they are not painful, they can be bothersome, and they are easily removable in the comfort of our office. Depending on the size and location of your skin tag, your dermatologist may opt to remove it by scissor excision, electrocautery (burning) or freezing with liquid nitrogen.
Itchy skin, also known as pruritus, can be extremely uncomfortable and debilitating in some cases. Itchy skin usually appears to be red, rough or bumpy, but can also look normal. It can affect small or large areas of the skin and can last a long time or be intense. Many people find relief with calming lotions and moisturizers, but it is important for your dermatologist to investigate the cause of your itchy skin, which could be due to a variety of health concerns. Health conditions leading to itchy skin could include skin diseases, internal diseases, nerve disorders, psychiatric diseases, allergic reactions or pregnancy. Itchy skin lasting for more than six weeks can lead to sleep disorders or depression, so it should be taken seriously.