"Skin rash" is a general term that describes a group of spots, an area of inflammation, or changes in the color or texture of the skin. Skin rashes may be associated with itching, tingling, burning, pain, swelling – or no discomfort at all. Skin rashes may or may not be contagious. Some skin rashes affect the whole body (generalized); others appear on discrete areas of the skin (localized). Skin rashes can be short-lived, recurrent or chronic.
There are hundreds of different types of skin rashes. Almost everyone, at some point in their lives, will encounter skin rashes. From diaper rash and cradle cap (in infants), through ringworm and chicken pox (children), acne and athlete's foot (teens), psoriasis and rosacea (adults), to shingles and scabies (seniors), they can affect us at different stages of life. Most skin rashes, however, don't discriminate by age.
The precise cause of many skin rashes, such as psoriasis and eczema, is still unknown. Stress, hormonal changes, genetic predisposition, and autoimmune problems are among the factors thought to be associated with some skin rashes.
To the untrained eye, many skin rashes look very similar to one another. Even dermatologists, trained to distinguish between skin rashes, may need to order tests to confirm a particular diagnosis.
Many skin rashes are short-lived and relatively minor, but some are highly contagious. Skin rashes can also be early indicators of a number of serious – even life-threatening – diseases, among them, meningitis, Lyme disease, typhoid fever, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Self-diagnosis is not recommended. See your family doctor or dermatologist if skin rashes enter your life, especially if you have other symptoms, like fever, swollen lymph nodes, infection, headache, shortness of breath, sensitivity to light, a stiff neck, or achy joints.
Obviously, specific treatment depends on the nature of the rash. However, there are some general measures that can be taken to good effect in most cases. Good skin care can accelerate healing and reduce the discomfort of skin rashes. It can also decrease the risk of secondary infection or scarring. If in doubt, check with your doctor to ensure that the following skin-care tips are suitable for your particular skin rash:
Keeping your skin healthy is the best form of prevention of skin rashes, and doesn't have to be complicated: Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, keep your skin clean and well-moisturized, and protect it from the elements (especially sun and wind). Most important of all, be gentle with your skin.
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