If you spend time outdoors, then you’ve probably come into contact with poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac at some point in your life. The plants’ oily sap, known as urushiol causes many people to break out in an itchy rash. Urushiol is colorless or pale yellow oil that exudes from any cut part of the plant, including the roots, stems and leaves.
The intensely itchy rash is an allergic reaction to the sap and can appear on any part of the body. The severity of the reaction varies from person to person, depending on how much sap penetrates the skin and how sensitive the person is to it. The most common symptoms include:
- Itchy skin
- Redness or streaks
- Small or large blisters
- Crusting skin when blisters have burst
When other parts of the body come into contact with the oil, the rash may continue to spread to new parts of the body. A common misconception is that people can develop the rash from touching another person’s poison ivy rash. However, you cannot give the rash to someone else. The person has to touch the actual oil from the plant in order have an allergic reaction.
When to See Your Dermatologist
Generally, a rash from poison ivy, oak or sumac will last 1 to 3 weeks and will go away on its own without treatment. But if you aren’t sure whether or not your rash is caused by poison ivy, or if you need treatment to relieve the itch, you may want to visit a dermatologist for proper diagnosis and care. You should also see your dermatologist if the rash is serious, in which case prescription medicine may be necessary. Swelling is a sign of serious infection.
Other signs that your rash may be serious include:
- Conservative treatments won’t ease the itch
- Rash begins to spread to numerous parts of the body
- Pus, pain, swelling, warmth and other signs of infection are accompanying the rash
- Facial swelling, especially on the eyelids
- Rash develops on face, eyelids, lips or genitals
- Breathing or swallowing becomes difficult
To avoid getting the rash caused by poison ivy, oak or sumac, learn how to recognize what these plants look like and stay away. Always wear long pants and long sleeves when you anticipate being in wooded areas, and wear gloves when gardening. If you come into contact with the plants, wash your skin and clothing immediately.
Poison ivy, oak and sumaccan be a real nuisance and often difficult to detect. As a general rule, remember the common saying, “Leaves of three—let them be.” And if you do get the rash, visit our office for proper care.
Rosacea is a chronic skin condition of the face that affects an estimated 16 million Americans. Because rosacea is frequently misdiagnosed and confused with acne, sunburn or eye irritation, a large percentage of people suffering from rosacea fail to seek medical help due to lack of awareness. It’s important to understand the warning signs of rosacea and need for treatment to make the necessary lifestyle changes and prevent the disorder from becoming progressively severe.
Although the exact cause of rosacea is unknown, you may be more susceptible to rosacea if:
- You are fair-skinned
- You blush easily
- You are female
- You have a family history of rosacea
- You are between the ages of 30 and 50
A frequent source of social embarrassment, for many people rosacea affects more than just the face. Rosacea is a chronic skin disease, which means it lasts for a lifetime. Learning what triggers your rosacea is an important way to reduce flare-ups and manage symptoms. This may include avoiding stress, too much sunlight, heavy exercise, extreme temperatures and certain foods or beverages.
What Are the Symptoms of Rosacea?
Rosacea frequently causes the cheeks to have a flushed or red appearance. The longer rosacea goes untreated, the higher the potential for permanent redness of the cheeks, nose and forehead. Symptoms of rosacea will not be the same for every person. Common symptoms include:
- Facial burning and stinging
- Facial flushing and blush that evolves to persistent redness
- Redness on the cheeks, nose, chin or forehead
- Small, visible broken blood vessels on the face
- Acne-like breakouts on the face
- Watery or irritated eyes
If you recognize any of the warning signs of rosacea, visit your dermatologist for a proper diagnosis. A dermatologist will examine your skin for common warning signs and tailor a treatment plan for your unique condition. Treatment will vary for each individual, ranging from topical medicine, antibiotics and lasers or light treatment. While there is currently no cure, with proper management patients can learn how to avoid triggers, prevent flare-ups and manage their condition to live a healthy, active life.
Psoriasis is a common, chronic and often frustrating skin condition that causes skin scaling, inflammation, redness and irritation. The exact cause is unknown, but psoriasis is thought to be caused by an overactive immune system, which causes the skin to form inflamed, scaly lesions. These patches of thick, red skin may be itchy and painful. They are often found on the elbows and knees, but can also form on the scalp, lower back, face and nails.
Symptoms of psoriasis are different for every person and can vary in intensity over time. Some people may even go months or years without symptoms before flare-ups return. Symptoms of psoriasis can manifest in many ways, including:
- Rough, scaly skin
- Cracks on fingertips
- Simple tasks are painful, such as tying your shoe
- Brown, uneven nails
- Flaky skin
- Joint pain or aching
- Severe itching
The onset of psoriasis can occur at any age, although it most often occurs in adults. The disease is non-contagious and is thought to be genetic. Because psoriasis is a persistent, systemic autoimmune disease, people with psoriasis will have it for a lifetime. Most people who suffer from psoriasis can still lead healthy, active lives with proper management and care.
Coping with Psoriasis: Your Dermatologist can Help
Currently, there is no cure for psoriasis, but with the help of your dermatologist, you can learn how to cope with the condition, reduce psoriasis symptoms and keep outbreaks under control for an improved quality of life. Treatment depends on how serious the psoriasis is, the type of psoriasis and how the patient responds to certain treatments.
Although moles are usually harmless, in some cases they can become cancerous, causing melanoma. For this reason, it is important to regularly examine your skin for any moles that change in size, color, shape, sensation or that bleed. Suspicious or abnormal moles or lesions should always be examined by your dermatologist.
What to Look For
Remember the ABCDE's of melanoma when examining your moles. If your mole fits any of these criteria, you should visit your dermatologist as soon as possible.
- Asymmetry. One half of the mole does not match the other half.
- Border. The border or edges of the mole are poorly defined or irregular.
- Color. The color of the mole is not the same throughout or has shades of tan, brown, black, blue, white or red.
- Diameter. The diameter of a mole is larger than the eraser of a pencil.
- Evolution. The mole is changing in size, shape or color.
Moles can appear anywhere on the skin, including the scalp, between the fingers and toes, on the soles of the feet and even under the nails. The best way to detect skin cancer in its earliest, most curable stage is by checking your skin regularly and visiting our office for a full-body skin cancer screening. Use this guide to perform a self-exam.
- Use a mirror to examine your entire body, starting at your head and working your way to the toes. Also be sure to check difficult to see areas, including between your fingers and toes, the groin, the soles of your feet and the backs of your knees.
- Pay special attention to the areas exposed to the most sun.
- Don't forget to check your scalp and neck for moles. Use a handheld mirror or ask a family member to help you.
- Develop a mental note or keep a record of all the moles on your body and what they look like. If they do change in any way (color, shape, size, border, etc.), or if any new moles look suspicious, visit your dermatologist right away.
Skin cancer has a high cure rate if detected and treated early. The most common warning sign is a visible change on the skin, a new growth, or a change in an existing mole. Depending on the size and location of the mole, dermatologists may use different methods of mole removal. A body check performed by a dermatologist can help determine whether the moles appearing on the body are pre-cancerous or harmless.
Eczema, also called “dermatitis,” refers to several different rash-like conditions where the skin is inflamed, red and irritated. The most severe and long-lasting type of eczema is atopic dermatitis. During a flare-up, the skin becomes extremely red, itchy and scaly. This skin condition can be widespread, or confined to only a few areas on the body.
Eczema is not contagious, although if you have a family history of eczema, your risk for the disease increases. Generally, atopic dermatitis affects infants or young children and may last until the child reaches adulthood.
The appearance and symptoms for atopic dermatitis will vary for each case. Intense itching is the most common sign of eczema, which can lead to severe discomfort and even loss of sleep. Other common symptoms of eczema include:
- Dry, red and extremely itchy patches of skin
- Cracked, inflamed and scaly skin
- Small bumps or blisters that ooze and weep
- In infants, the rash generally appears on the cheeks and around the mouth
Eczema outbreaks are caused by an overreaction of your skin’s immune system to environmental and emotional triggers, such as temperature, chemicals, dust, mold or stress. While there is currently no cure, eczema sufferers can practice self-care at home to help reduce flare-ups. Lifestyle adjustments are the best line of defense in controlling all types of eczema. Goals of treatment include reducing inflammation, decreasing risk of infection and alleviating the itch. To minimize symptoms and outbreaks:
- Moisturize every day to prevent dryness and cracking.
- Limit contact with irritants, such as soaps, clothing, jewelry, foods and detergents.
- Avoid sudden changes in temperatures as overheating and sweating are common triggers of flare-ups.
- Reduce stress and anxiety.
- Minimize exposure to mold, pollens and animal dander.
- Opt for cotton, loose-fitting clothes and avoid wool and other rough materials.
Treatment for eczema begins with a proper diagnosis from your dermatologist. If you are diagnosed with eczema, your dermatologist can explain your type of eczema and can work with you to tailor a treatment plan that meets your individual needs to effectively manage the symptoms.
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