Many of us know that skin is the largest organ of the body, but did you know that in adults, its area totals up to around 20 square feet? That’s a lot of skin, and when you think of everything it’s exposed to, that also leaves a lot of room for something to go wrong! Normal skin is often rife with visible pores, bumps, bruises, and imperfections, contrary to what the photoshopped celebrity culture and advertising world perpetuate. Some of us are born with skin conditions or imperfections, and all of us will experience some type of skin abnormality in our lifetime.
Taking proper care of your skin can prevent a lot of common conditions, and when they do crop up, there’s a lot of things you can do to treat them at home. But even some of the more ordinary skin conditions require a visit to the doctor at some point. A dermatologist specializes in that sort of thing, but many issues may only require quick trip to your family physician or an urgent care center like Piedmont Express Care at Sutton Road. Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish the more serious skin conditions, so it’s a good idea to err on the safe side and visit a doctor if you aren’t sure.
Three Common Conditions That Require Medical Treatment
Dry skin is a pretty universally regular skin condition, especially in the winter. Even extreme dry skin can be treated with heavy moisturizers. Eczema is an extreme variant of dry skin, resulting in chronically dry, patchy areas of of skin in places like the hands, neck, or legs. Patches often blister or break into open sores, which can easily get infected. Over-the-counter cortisone creams or antihistamines may help, but some forms of eczema require more aggressive treatment. Visit your doctor or an urgent care center for oral steroids or prescription-strength moisturizers. In extreme cases UV light therapy or immunosuppressants may be necessary.
Shingles is a painful rash that develops from a dormant virus – the same virus that causes chickenpox. In many people the virus stays dormant for a lifetime, but in others stress or a weak immune system can allow it to resurface. The first stage of symptoms may include a headache or signs similar to the flu, but without a fever. As the virus progresses it causes tingling and itching, and later a band of blisters. Though the presence of shingles is sometimes mild, it can spread, become very painful, and even cause dizziness or problems with vision and thinking. Visit a doctor as soon as possible to get on an antiviral medication that will hopefully prevent the illness from getting too bad.
Impetigo is a contagious skin infection seen most commonly in children, though adults can contract it. It can occur in totally healthy skin, but is usually contracted when the health of the skin is already compromised by injury or some kind of illness like chickenpox or poison ivy. It is characterized by sores that can ooze and crust over, most often on the nose or mouth. Caused by bacteria, antibiotic ointment and/or pills are required to fight the infection.
Symptoms of a Serious Skin Problem
Though these are some of the most common skin issues that may require a doctor’s visit, there are a variety of common conditions that you can treat at home, including hives, skin allergies, poison ivy, athletes foot, and cold sores. However, even seemingly innocuous rashes can become harmful, so any condition that is not responding to home care may be worth contacting a doctor about. It’s always important to keep an eye on symptoms, and contact a doctor about any rash that causes secondary symptoms (headache, joint pain, fever, swollen tongue, etc.), if you have been exposed to an individual with a strep infection, if it is preventing you from sleeping, if it’s very painful, or if it seems infected.
Liz Frye is a mother of five, familiar with the plight of a parent who doesn’t want to make a trip to the doctor if it isn’t necessary. As a former teacher, she is familiar with the quick spread of illness. She is also a freelance writer and regularly contributes to Universal Woman.