St. Luke's University Health Network

Skin Disorders

Many Skin Disorders Treated at St. Luke’s

Our skin is the largest organ in our bodies. Skin protects us from bacteria, chemicals and temperature. Since it is so important, we must care for it by:

  • Checking for irregular and abnormal growths and discolorations
  • Keeping it clean and free of irritating and dangerous chemicals
  • Drinking plenty of water

There are many diseases and conditions that affect the skin. Some of these are shown below.

 


Skin Cancer and Melanoma

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that occurs in the cells that color the skin.


Acne

Acne is a skin condition that affects people from ages 10 through 40. Many teenagers experience acne. Some women get acne again or for the first time in their 20s. Any of the following conditions can be thought of as acne:

  • Pimples
  • Blackheads
  • Whiteheads
  • Congested pores
  • Pustules
  • Cysts (deep pimples)

Acne is caused by bacteria in the oil of blocked adrenal glands in the skin. This bacteria causes the surrounding tissue to become inflamed. Sometimes, you get acne if it is in your family’s genetic history. You also can get it from foods, dirt, stress, hormones and cosmetics. While you cannot control your genetics, you can control some of the other factors.

Treating Acne

You can easily treat mild cases of acne at home.

  • Care for you skin with mild cleansers.
  • Kill bacteria with antibacterial cleansers.

For more serious cases of acne, see your family doctor or dermatologist.


Athlete’s Foot

Athlete's foot is a fungal infection that affects the spaces between the toes, but also can affect toenails and the soles and sides of the feet. It easily spreads from person to person in common places like public showers, locker rooms and fitness centers.

Treating Athlete’s Foot

  • For mild cases, antifungal lotions and powders are available either by prescription or over-the-counter. These products usually work very well.
  • For more serious cases, your doctor may prescribe an oral medication.

Cellulitis

Cellulitis is a bacterial skin infection that may appear as a swollen, red area of skin that feels hot and tender. While it may happen anywhere on your body or face, it is most common on the lower legs, especially near the ankles and shins. Children and older adults often will get this on the face.

In mild cases, cellulitis may affect only the surface of the skin. However, it can become more serious if it spreads to the lymph nodes and bloodstream. In this case, if not treated, the condition may be life-threatening.

What Are the Risk Factors for Cellulitis?

There are a number of risk factors for cellulitis, including:

  • Bites (human or animal)
  • Insect bites and stings
  • Skin wounds
  • Weakened immune system
  • Diabetes
  • Chickenpox and shingles
  • Chronic swelling of your arms or legs (lymphedema)
  • Chronic fungal infection of your feet or toes
  • Intravenous drug use

Treating Cellulitis

  • For mild cases, a prescription oral antibiotic will help symptoms.
  • Raising the affected area above the level of the heart will help with the swelling.
  • For more serious conditions, especially if you have a high fever, you may need to be hospitalized and receive antibiotics through your veins (intravenously).

Dermatitis

Eczema is the common name for atopic dermatitis and is most often appears as an itchy eruption of the skin. The skin on the arms and behind the knees are most often affected.

Although the cause is not known, it may come from:

  • A problem with the immune system
  • Stress
  • A history of asthma and allergies

The following symptoms may signal dermatitis:

  • Small, raised bumps that ooze
  • Intense itching
  • Skin areas that are dry and leathery
  • Thickened, cracked or scaly skin
  • Raw, sensitive skin from scratching

Relieving the symptoms of dermatitis:

  • Don’t take long, hot baths or showers
  • Use a mild soap for bathing
  • Moisturize dry skin
  • Control stress and anxiety
  • Keep sweating to a minimum
  • Avoid direct skin contact with solvents, cleaners, soaps and detergents
  • Be aware that wool or man-made fabrics or clothing can irritate the condition
  • Avoid cigarette smoke

Treating Dermatitis

  • Over-the-counter anti-itch creams may help relieve and control symptoms
  • Your doctor can prescribe corticosteroid creams or ointments
  • Oral antihistamines may help to relieve itching

Nail Fungus

Fungi that cause fungal infections can enter the skin through small cuts or a small separation between the nail and nail bed. Toenails are most often affected because the fungi thrive in dark, warm, moist areas.  You can tell a fungus infection if you see nails that are:

  • Thick, distorted and brittle
  • Dark in color
  • Separated from the nail bed
  • Painful

Treating Nail Fungus

Nail fungus is very common. The fungi is often found in public areas like pools, locker rooms, showers and gyms. Nail fungus can be difficult to treat using some of the following methods:

  • Antifungal nail creams and ointments
  • Oral medications
  • Antifungal drugs by prescription from your doctor

In serious cases, your doctor may remove the nail completely, but new growth may take a year or more to grow back.


Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a common long-lasting skin condition. Skin cells build up too quickly and form thick, silvery scales and itchy, dry, red patches that are sometimes painful. The following situations can either set off or further irritate the condition:

  • Cuts, bites, sunburn or other skin injury
  • Stress
  • Cold weather
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Some medications

Treating Psoriasis

  • In mild cases, creams and ointments can provide relief and help heal the skin.
  • In more serious cases, your doctor may prescribe oral or injected drugs
  • Light therapy by itself or with medications may provide relief and healing.

Rosacea

Rosacea is long-lasting inflammatory skin disease that causes facial redness. The signs of rosacea include:

  • Flushing or blushing easily
  • Small, red bumps on the face
  • Red, swollen nose
  • Visible blood vessels on the face
  • Burning sensation in the eyes

The condition affects mostly fair-skinned adults between the ages of 30 and 60. It is common for rosacea to flare-up over time. There is no way to cure the condition, but doctors usually prescribe oral and topical antibiotics to control symptoms and find relief.


Sweat

Sweating is normally a healthy process. However, there are situations where too little or too much sweating can be serious. Talk to your doctor if you notice any of the following:

  • Sweating more than usual
  • Night sweats
  • Cold sweats with chest and stomach pains
  • Change in body odor

Some of these symptoms may signal a serious medical condition.


Vitiligo

Vitiligo causes your skin to lose melanin, the pigment that determines the color of your skin, hair and eyes. It causes slowly growing white patches on your skin.

Treating Vitiligo

While there is no cure for vitiligo, doctors try to stop or slow down the loss of pigment and return your normal skin color. Treatments include:

  • Topical corticosteroid therapy
  • Light therapies
  • Surgery, including skin grafts and tattooing

Impetigo

Impetigo is a highly contagious skin infection caused by either the staph or strep bacteria. It mainly affects infants and children and usually appears around the nose and mouth. In children, impetigo most often happens occurs when the bacteria enters the skin through cuts or insect bites. Adults also can suffer from the condition, but is usually is the result of a skin injury.

Impetigo starts as a red sore that quickly ruptures, oozes and then forms a yellowish-brown crust. Treatment usually includes an antibiotic ointment and oral medications. Most outbursts are not serious and do not cause scarring. However, there is a more serious type of impetigo that leaves scars after the ulcers heal.


Hives

Hives are batches of itchy, raised, red or white bumps on the skin.  While the cause of hives is not known, they can be caused by:

  • Heat
  • Exercise
  • Stress

Chronic hives also can be linked to other health problems such as thyroid disease or lupus.

For most people, they go away within a few weeks. There are some people, however, who have a long-lasting problem with hives. For these people, the hives last more than six weeks and come back often.

Over-the-counter or prescription medications have been effective in treating hives.


Hair Diseases

Dandruff

Dandruff is white flakes of dead skin in your hair and an itchy scalp. It can be caused by:

  • Dry skin
  • Dermatitis
  • Psoriasis
  • Hormonal changes
  • Stress
  • Neurological conditions
  • Immune disorders

Dandruff can be treated with an effective dandruff shampoo. If the condition continues, talk to your doctor, who may prescribe a medicated shampoo or steroid lotion.

Hair Loss (Alopecia)

Hair loss is a natural process but it is usually replaced with new hair growth. We normally lose 50 to 150 hairs every day.  Baldness happens when:

  • Lost hair is greater than new growth
  • New hair is thinner than the hair shed
  • Hair falls out in patches

The most common type of alopecia affects men and will result in either total or partial baldness. Although women sometimes experience this type of alopecia, complete baldness is rare.

Alopecia Areata is another type of baldness that is an autoimmune disease.  Hair comes out in patches, but generally grows back. People may lose and regrow hair several times.

Hair loss also can be caused by:

  • Diabetes, lupus and thyroid disorders
  • Poor nutrition
  • Medications
  • Medical treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • high fever, severe flu or surgery.
  • Hair treatments.
  • Scalp infections

Treating Hair Loss

There are a number of ways to treat hair loss from medications to surgery. Successful regrowth depends on the severity of the condition and how well the person tolerates the treatment. Wigs and hairpieces are an alternative to medical treatments.