Worried About That Rash?

Plain and simple, a rash is an area of your skin that is swollen, discolored and/or irritated — close to any skin issue that distorts the skin’s normal appearance. Rashes can be caused by all sorts of problems, from rough treatment to medication to a dangerous disease, and you might not be able to tell the difference on your own. This guide will walk you through determining the severity of your rash, so you can seek the appropriate treatment and get back to healthy, smooth skin.

Most Common Causes of Rash

While there are so-called zebras — rare diseases that masquerade as something familiar — usually your rash is due to something common and fixable. Here are the most common causes of rash and what those rashes look like.

Seborrheic dermatitis. The most common rash affecting adults, this rash appears on the scalp, forehead, cheeks and outer ears. It is red, scaling and itchy. As yet, doctors don’t know the cause, but it could be a poor immune response or a yeast infection on the skin.

Atopic dermatitis. Better known as eczema, this red, itchy and weeping rash on soft skin (the elbows, the ankles, the neck, etc.) is a chronic health issue. Sufferers of eczema lack a barrier that protects skin from bacteria, allergens and other irritants, so skin flares more aggressively when it comes into contact with them. Eczema tends to be worse in childhood and among people with asthma.

Contact dermatitis. There are thousands of substances that are irritating to the skin, and unsurprisingly, touching them will result in a rash. Though the rash can present differently depending on the substance, it is usually weepy and oozy. Poison ivy, nickel jewelry, bleach, fertilizers and other substances cause this rash — as do feces and urine, which result in diaper rash in infants.

Stasis dermatitis. Not to be confused with bedsores —which are ulcers that develop due to constant pressure on the body — this rash occurs when a person has poor circulation. Most often, the itchy, red, ulcerated rash appears on the lower extremities, and it can be treated with pressure stockings and elevating the legs.

Psoriasis. Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition caused by a rapid life cycle of skin cells. It causes cells to build up rapidly on the surface instead of slowly sloughing off like normal. The extra cells form scales that tend to be red as well as itchy or painful. Psoriasis is different for every sufferer; you might have thickened, ridged nails or dry, cracking skin as well as a rash. Additionally, the symptoms can appear on many parts of the body. Psoriasis is likely an immune disorder, but as yet, it isn’t very well understood. It’s best to talk to your general practitioner if you suspect you are suffering from psoriasis.

Hives. Most people are familiar with the red itchy bumps of hives. Hives are rapid onset and typically resolve in about eight hours. This is because they are the body’s quick reaction to an irritant, and they usually signal allergic reaction. If you are frequently getting hives due to a food or a medication, you should avoid the cause in the future.

Miliaria. In the medical world, heat rash goes by this name. This rash looks like a cluster of acne or small, red blisters on the skin, and it most often occurs on the neck, upper chest and folds of the body, like the elbow creases and near the groin. It is caused by an occlusion of the sweat ducts, which happens in hot, humid weather. It’s easy to treat heat rash by moving to a colder environment, like an air-conditioned room.

Drug eruptions. Finally, some medications cause rashes. Antibiotics are notorious for producing rashes that look identical to common viral infections, but most drugs have some rare skin-related side effect. If you suspect a medication is to blame, you should talk to your doctor about the condition.

If Your Rash Is Something Else

You can find near-endless pictures of rashes online to help you self-diagnose, but if you aren’t sure where your rash came from — and you are experiencing worrisome symptoms like fever or difficulty breathing — it is imperative that you see a medical professional right away. You can visit either an Urgent Care facility or an Emergency Room; both will have supplies to diagnose your rash.

Rashes can be ugly and uncomfortable, but they can also be helpful hints about your health below the surface. By paying close attention to your rash, you should be able to find out how to clear it up and address any underlying health concerns. That way, you can have healthy skin and a healthier you.