Your skin is the largest organ in your body, making up about 16% of an adult’s body weight, and it’s a critically important one. The skin and its derivatives (hair, nails, sweat, and oil glands) make up the integumentary system, which is the body’s first line of defense against external factors like bacteria, chemicals, and temperature.
There are more than 3,000 skin disorders known to dermatology, so while regular skin care routines and over-the-counter treatments can go a long way to prevent and even heal some minor skin conditions, sometimes it’s necessary to ask for help from a professional.
Read on to learn more about the five most common skin conditions treated by our resident dermatologist, Michael Krathen, MD.
Acne vulgaris is by far the most common skin condition in the country, affecting approximately 90% of people at one time or another.
Although this frustrating condition is often attributed to excess oil or dirt, the main driver for acne is typically hormonal changes within the body. This negative response to hormones in the skin often starts during puberty, but acne often persists in both men and women well into adulthood.
Early-stage acne is often controlled successfully through the use of a topical retinoid product, along with either salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide washes. When acne is not controlled by topical treatments and is either at risk for scarring or impacting self-esteem, oral treatments like antibiotics and isotretinoin might be prescribed. Oral birth control, spironolactone, or a combination of both often lead to incredible and safe long-term acne control in women.
Acne can be successfully controlled in almost every situation, so if you suffer from acne reach out to your primary care provider to talk about treatment options or seek a referral to a dermatologist.
Although not as common as acne, rosacea can be equally frustrating for affected patients. This condition, which typically develops between the ages of 20 and 50, is characterized by facial redness, pimples (aka papulopustules), or both.
Patients often associate certain triggers with flaring their rosacea, including sun exposure, hot beverages, spicy food, alcoholic drinks, and emotional triggers such as embarrassment. Avoiding triggers can help rosacea under control, but of course that’s easier said than done.
Pimples often respond fairly well to topical or oral antibiotics, as well as anti-inflammatory creams and washes, but the redness is best treated through laser or light therapy.
Patients with longstanding rosacea may develop rhinophyma, which is a thickened rubbery nasal skin. This can be a challenge to reverse, so it’s best to seek care as soon as symptoms present.
Some patients are also affected by ocular rosacea, which is typically characterized by red, itchy eyes, with a sandy or gritty feeling during blinking. Treatment for ocular rosacea can be sought through an ophthalmologist.
Eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis) is increasingly common in children and adults. This condition is typically seen in patients who have a personal or family history of seasonal allergies, asthma, or food allergies.
Atopic dermatitis leads to itchy, red, cracked plaques on the body, extremities, and face. It typically develops around two to three months after birth, worsens during the first year of life, and then improves gradually throughout childhood. By adulthood, most patients will “grow out” of eczema, but they may still have sensitive or reactive skin.
For mild to moderate cases, eczema is typically treated by vigorously supporting the skin barrier through aggressive emollients and gentle skin care and the use of topical anti-inflammatories like steroids, calcineurin inhibitors, or crisaborole.
For moderate to severe eczema, dupilumab and other therapies can significantly curb itching and inflammation.
Warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Common warts (Verruca vulgaris) can be found anywhere on the body, while plantar warts (Verruca plantaris) are found on the bottom of the foot. Although they may go away on their own, this process can take months to years (if at all) without additional treatment.
Everything from duct tape to antacid relief has been described to treat warts. Home therapy often starts with a salicylic acid product to help degrade the top layers of the wart, irritate the skin, and initiate an antiviral host response. In-office therapy often includes destructive therapy such as cryotherapy (liquid nitrogen) or cantharidin solution (blister-beetle toxin)
To avoid spreading warts, cover active warts with a bandage and avoid picking, biting or shaving the affected areas.
Characterized typically by pink scaly plaques found on the scalp, elbows, knees, and body, psoriasis is due to excessive inflammation in the skin. This condition impacts about 7.5 million people in the United States. It occurs in all age groups but is primarily seen in adults, with the majority of patients between ages 45 and 64.
Through a combination of genetic and environmental factors that are not yet well understood, the body’s white blood cell pathways are incorrectly forced into hyperdrive, leading to skin thickening, flaking, itching, and often embarrassment.
Once neglected in the medical field due to limited treatment options, psoriasis is now a “hot” diagnosis in dermatology, and there are many highly effective treatment options available. It’s an excellent example of how basic science research can partner with drug development to develop an extensive collection of life-changing therapies. Fortunately, through creams and lotions, phototherapy, oral therapy, and injection therapy, most patients with psoriasis can expect highly effective therapy to control their skin and joint symptoms.
If you are suffering from a skin disorder and looking to start on a treatment pathway, your first stop should be your primary care doctor. Your care team can initiate effective treatment and get you started on proper management. If the initial treatment steps from primary care aren’t a success, they may refer you to a dermatologist.
If you have questions about any of this, don’t hesitate to reach out to your Firefly Health care team. You can chat with us or schedule a visit in the app today. Not a member yet? Get started by signing up or giving us a call at (855) 869-9284.
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