Living with
Common Skin Conditions

You should work closely with a dermatologist to diagnose and treat any chronic or recurring skin conditions to ensure your lifestyle is not affected. Below are the most common skin diseases separated by type.

Cellulitis

This is a relatively common, but potentially serious, bacterial infection in the deeper layers of the skin.

An area of the skin may become red and swollen. The affected area may also feel hot, painful or tender to the touch. Additionally, the area may discharge pus.

Cellulitis occurs when bacteria, most commonly streptococcus or staphylococcus, enter the skin through a crack or break. Bacteria are most likely to enter where skin is not intact, such as such with surgical wounds, cuts or abrasions from injuries, puncture wounds like from an animal bite, with an ulcer or dryness and cracking from dermatitis. Although cellulitis can occur anywhere on your body, the most common location is the lower legs.

Cellulitis can develop quickly and can spread rapidly throughout the body, while severe infections may be life-threatening. Therefore, medical attention is needed if you have cellulitis, with most cases needing to be treated with antibiotics.

To help prevent cellulitis and other infections, take these precautions when you have a skin wound:

  • Clean your wound daily with soap and water.
  • Apply a protective antibacterial (and/or antifungal) cream, gel or ointment.
  • Cover your wound with a clean bandage or plaster.
  • Watch for signs of infection.

You must also try to keep skin moisturised and free of dryness or flaking, including treating any underlying skin conditions like psoriasis, athlete’s foot or eczema.

Psoriasis

This is a relatively common chronic autoimmune disorder. Symptoms typically include patches of red, scaly and very itchy skin, varying in size and severity. The patches are most commonly found on the knees, elbows, trunk and scalp. There are five main types of psoriasis:

  • Plaque psoriasis causes thick red patches of skin.
  • Pustular psoriasis causes pustules surrounded by red skin.
  • Erythodermic psoriasis causes patches of skin that look like severe burns covering large areas of the body.
  • Inverse psoriasis causes a shiny red rash in the folds of the skin.
  • Guttate psoriasis causes small red spots on the scalp, face, torso and limbs.

Psoriasis is long-term disorder with no cure. You may also experience flare-ups or exacerbations when symptoms are worse. Treatment is available for psoriasis, and, along with healthy lifestyle behaviours, can be used to manage conditions.

Try these self-care measures to better manage your psoriasis:

  • Take daily baths: This will help remove scales and calm inflamed skin. Be sure to use lukewarm water and mild soaps.
  • Keep your skin moisturised.
  • Cover the affected areas overnight: Before going to bed, apply an ointment-based moisturiser (with hydrocortisone or salicylic acid to reduce itching and scaling) to the affected skin and wrap with plastic wrap. When you wake, remove the plastic and wash away the scales.
  • Keep out of the sun.
  • Avoid psoriasis triggers: These commonly include cigarette smoke, alcohol, cold weather and stress, amongst others.

Hives (Urticaria)

Hives are raised itchy and red welts on the skin. They are usually caused by an allergic reaction to food allergens, stress, illness or even tight clothes. Hives are treated with allergy medication, especially those containing antihistamines, and by avoiding known allergens.

Contact (Allergic) Dermatitis

Contact (allergic) dermatitis causes red, itchy stinging rashes where your skin has come into contact with substances that irritate the skin or cause an allergic reaction.  You may develop blisters that weep, ooze or become scaly.

This condition can be prevented if you avoid known allergens (such as detergent soaps, cosmetics and plants like poison ivy) (link), while symptoms can be relived by allergen medications, especially those containing antihistamines, and soothing creams and ointments.

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Common Skin Conditions by topic