Rashes: The Causes and Treatments

What is a rash?

A rash is a general term for a wide variety of skin conditions. A rash refers to a change that affects the skin and usually appears as a red patch or small bumps or blisters on the skin. Rashes can be a symptom of other skin problems. The most prevalent of these are:

  • Atopic Dermatitis, the most common form of eczema.
  • Bacterial Infections, such as impetigo.
  • Contact Dermatitis, a type of eczema caused by coming into contact with an allergen.
  • Chronic skin problems, such as acne, psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis.
  • Fungal Infections, such as ringworm and yeast infection.
  • Viral Infections, such as shingles.
A rash may be a sign of a more serious illness, such as Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, liver disease, kidney disease or some types of cancers. If you experience a rash that does not go away on its own after a few weeks, make an appointment to see one of our dermatologists to have it properly diagnosed and treated.

What causes a rash?

Skin irritations are a sign that our bodies are working, telling us that something is amiss. Whether the skin is reacting to outside factors such as plants, or erupting due to conditions from inside the body, it is important to know that all irritations can be calmed and cured. Some common skin irritations are Dandruff, Eczema, Contact Dermatitis, Stasis Dermatitis, Psoriasis, Hives, Heat Rash, Folliculitis and Shingles. It is important to note that these conditions all have different root causes. There are irritations caused by contact with a substance or contact dermatitis, there are irritations caused by bacterial infections.
Although rashes rarely indicate a serious condition, they can still cause serious discomfort. Most hives and rashes are caused by allergic reactions, an infection or an adverse reaction to a medication. They can normally be treated with gentle cleaning, anti-itch cream, and antibiotic ointment. Because some rashes can indicate a more serious underlying condition, it’s always best to have this symptom checked out by a dermatologist.

How to treat a rash

There are dozens of treatments for various kinds of skin irritations. Over-the-counter products are available to soothe symptoms and heal contact dermatitis and bacterial irritations, but viral irritations need to be resolved with medications prescribed by your dermatologist. The majority of rashes are harmless and can be treated effectively with over-the-counter anti-itch creams, antihistamines, and moisturizing lotions.

What are hives?

Hives are characterized as itchy red, raised welts (also known as wheals) on the skin’s surface that can spread or join together and form larger areas of raised lesions. They are generally triggered by exposure to an allergen or chemical irritant. They tend to appear suddenly and often disappear equally as suddenly.
Rash-like hives may be caused by a number of different things. A food allergy, insect bite, adverse reaction to medication or another type of exposure can all be culprits to this temporary indisposition. Though these symptoms do pass, they can be very uncomfortable and alarming while present. The only way to ensure proper diagnosis and skin disorder treatment is through consultation with an experienced dermatologist.
Hives are usually an allergic reaction to food, medicine or animals. They can also be triggered by sun exposure, stress, excessive perspiration or other, more serious diseases, such as lupus. Anyone can get hives. They are harmless and non-contagious. Hives may itch, burn or sting. They rarely need medical attention as they tend to disappear on their own. However, in persistent cases, your dermatologist may prescribe antihistamines or oral corticosteroids. The best way to prevent hives is to discontinue exposure to the allergic irritant.
Hives lasting more than six weeks are known as chronic urticaria or if there is swelling below the surface of the skin, angioedema. There are no known causes of angioedema, but it can affect internal organs and therefore requires medical attention.

What is contact dermatitis?

Contact dermatitis is a very commonly managed rash in the dermatology office. This rash is often itchy and red, but it can develop cracks in the skin that become very painful in severe cases. It may come in various flavors, but we most commonly see contact dermatitis on the hands. The hands are vulnerable because some people wash their hands too often or wash with harsh soaps, stripping the natural protective oils from the skin.

When this happens, the skin barrier fails! Then, the hands dry out and irritating chemicals like perfumes further aggravate the skin. Out of all the people we see in our office for this condition, 50% are caretakers of a baby. That is because they constantly wash their hands before and after handling the baby. Healthcare workers are commonly seen for this condition, as well, since they are constantly washing their hands to protect their patients from the spread of infections.
Preventing hand dermatitis is far better than treating it. Instead of washing your hand with harsh soaps, use a gentle cleanser. Additionally, moisturize after hand washing. Use a moisturizer that is a thick cream that does not contain fragrance. Caution with the use of heaters, as this can dry out the skin and worsen a hand dermatitis. If these measures do not yield desirable results, I highly recommend seeing your dermatologist.
Other forms of contact dermatitis include rashes from nickel. Nickel can be found in belt buckles, so we often see this type of rash around the belly button. You may not have an allergy to nickel for years, and then develop this all of a sudden. For this nail polish can help. That’s right, applying nail polish to the belt buckle will form a barrier between the irritating nickel and your skin.
For contact dermatitis, 1% hydrocortisone cream or topical steroid can help alleviate irritation. This is an ultra-mild treatment option that is safe – even on the face. Some treatments that don’t require a prescription are: anti-itch creams like Cortisol, oral antihistamines such as Benadryl, ER gel’s healing ointment, PCA Skin’s Anti-Redness serum or a topical antifungal for fungal rashes. For viral irritations such as shingles, medications such as acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir will work to cure outbreaks. Symptoms can also be treated with topical antibiotics.

What is seborrheic dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis is a common skin condition that mainly affects your scalp. It causes scaly patches, red skin, and stubborn dandruff. Seborrheic dermatitis can also affect oily areas of the body, such as the face, sides of the nose, eyebrows, ears, eyelids, and chest. Seborrheic dermatitis is also called dandruff, seborrheic eczema, and seborrheic psoriasis. For infants, the condition is known as cradle cap and causes crusty, scaly patches on the scalp.
Seborrheic dermatitis may go away without treatment. Or you may need many repeated treatments before the symptoms go away. And they may return later. Daily cleansing with gentle soap and shampoo can help reduce oiliness and dead skin buildup.

Request an Appointment

Affiliated Dermatology can help identify the trigger that caused the reaction or rash, prescribe an antihistamine or suggest ways to make the condition more comfortable until it subsides. For more information or to schedule an appointment at one of our several dermatology offices in Arizona, please contact us by calling (480) 556-0446 or leaving us a message with the contact form below.

Schedule an Appointment

Whether you wish to receive treatment for a skin condition or an aesthetic procedure, you can be assured you will be treated with professional and personal care by one of our skin care experts. Please feel free to call us at (480) 556-0446 or leave us a message online using our Contact Us form.