What Are Rashes?
Symptoms of Rashes
The symptoms that come along with a skin rash depend on the cause and type of rash. Some common symptoms include:
- Scaly or dry skin
- Similarity to hives
- Swelling or inflammation
- Itchy skin
- Infection of the areas of broken skin
- Shiny, flat-topped bumps
- Large affected areas of skin
- Circular-shaped affected areas
Causes of Rashes
Irritants and allergens in the climate/environment can cause rashes on the skin. Other common causes include:
- Viral or bacterial infections
- Skin conditions such as rosacea or eczema
- Skin irritants (including soaps, skin care products, or some fabrics)
- Personal and/or family history of allergies, hay fever, or asthma
- Allergic to certain medications, including those that treat high blood pressure, heart disease, and arthritis
- Triggering agents from other conditions, such as hepatitis B or hepatitis C
Some causes and triggers for rashes are unknown.
Common Skin Rash Types
Some common skin rash types include those caused by skin conditions like eczema, granuloma annulare, lichen planus, and pityriasis rosea.
Eczema is a general term that describes several different conditions in which skin is inflamed, red, scaly, and itchy. Eczema is a common skin condition, and atopic dermatitis (also called atopic eczema) is one of the most common forms of eczema. It can affect adults or children and isn’t contagious.
The way eczema looks can vary from person to person. In adults, eczema most often affects the hands, elbows, and back of your knees. In young children, eczema often also shows up on the face, back of the neck, and scalp.
Some things can trigger a flare-up of eczema or make eczema worse, but they don’t cause the condition.
Hives is a skin condition that causes raised, itchy bumps or welts. If you have hives, you could be allergic to something airborne or an insect bite. It can also be caused by changes in the temperature and bacterial infections.
The type of rash that comes from contact dermatitis happens when your body reacts to irritants such as detergents, fragrances, and chemicals. It can cause inflammation, itchiness, and redness.
Granuloma annulare is a chronic skin condition. A circular-shaped rash with reddish bumps (papules) is a common symptom. Most often, it affects children and young adults. It's slightly more common in girls and is usually seen in people who are otherwise healthy.
If you have granuloma annulare, you'll usually notice one or more rings of small, firm bumps over the back of your forearms, hands, or feet. The rash may be mildly itchy.
Lichen planus is a common skin condition that causes shiny, flat-topped bumps. They often have an angular shape and a reddish-purplish color. Lichen planus can show up anywhere on the skin but often affects the insides of your wrists and ankles, lower legs, back, and neck. Some people have lichen planus inside their mouth, genital region, scalp, and nails. Thick collections of bumps may occur, especially on the shins.
Lichen planus most often affects adults ages 30-70 years. It isn’t common in very young or elderly people.
Pityriasis rosea is a common skin rash that is usually mild. The condition often begins with a large, scaly, pink patch of skin on your chest or back. Next, you’ll notice one patch of pink skin quickly followed by more. Your skin will be itchy and red or inflamed. The number and sizes of spots can vary.
Pityriasis rosea affects the back, neck, chest, abdomen, upper arms, and legs. The rash can differ from person to person.
Viral conditions. Rashes on the skin can be the result of a viral infection such as measles or chickenpox.
Psoriasis. This skin condition causes a rash is thick and scaly and usually appears on the knees, back, elbows, genitals, and scalp. It is permanent and can be passed down from your parents.
Diagnosing a skin rash can be hard because the symptoms can be caused by many things. Your doctor will check your skin and ask about your symptoms and may decide to diagnose your rash using tests such as:
- Skin biopsy. This involves taking a small bit of skin from the affected area and sending it to a lab for testing for a virus or bacteria. (see symptoms and diagnosis of eczema)
- Blood test. Your doctor can diagnose certain diseases by looking at antibodies in your blood. Also, rashes can be the result of systemic conditions, and blood tests can help to check how your organs may be affected.
- Allergy test. These tests include skin pricks or patch tests to look for allergens. During the test, your skin is exposed to certain allergens to detect any potential reactions.
Treatment for Rashes
The treatment your doctor recommends will depend on the cause of your skin rash.Some treatment options include:
Over-the-counter and prescription creams and ointments. You can treat rashes caused by skin conditions like eczema with moisturizers that are fragrance-free and contain ingredients such as ceramides, glycerin, and mineral oil. Medications include over-the-counter creams and ointments containing the steroid hydrocortisone (for example, Cortizone-10, Cort-Aid, Dermarest Eczema, Neosporin Eczema). These products may help control the itching, swelling, and redness linked to eczema.
In more severe cases, prescription-strength cortisone creams are also used.
Steroids. If you have ongoing symptoms, your doctor may prescribe topical or oral steroid treatment, which can help with itchy and inflamed skin.
Topical immunomodulators. For people with mild-to-moderate eczema, topical immunomodulators can help. These medications, including brand name products Elidel and Protopic , work by changing the body's immune response to allergens, thereby preventing flare-ups.
Shots (injections). Injections can be used to treat rashes that come from certain skin conditions. Dupilumab (Dupixent), for example, is an injectable monoclonal antibody used in patients with moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis. It clears the itch quickly in most patients. Cortisone shots can also be used in more severe cases.
Phototherapy (light therapy). This is another treatment that helps some people with eczema. Phototherapy uses ultraviolet light, either ultraviolet A (UVA) or ultraviolet B (UVB), from special lamps to treat people with severe cases.
Risks linked to phototherapy include burning (usually resembling a mild sunburn), dry skin, itchy skin, freckling, and potential premature aging of the skin. Your health care professionals will work with you to lessen any risks.
Immunosuppressive medications. Medications including steroid shots, prednisone, or other drugs can help clear up a rash by suppressing your immune system.
Complications of Rashes
Rashes on the skin aren't usually problematic and respond well to treatment. Some possible complications include:
Infection. When you scratch an itchy rash, it opens your skin. This allows pathogens such as bacteria to enter, putting you at risk of infection.
Anaphylaxis. In addition to a skin rash, some people can have a severe allergic reaction that is life-threatening, also known as anaphylaxis. The extreme swelling that happens in anaphylaxis can close your air passages. An immediate injection with epinephrine (EpiPen) is needed to act against the allergic reaction. If you have an itchy feeling in your mouth or throat with your skin rash, talk to your doctor about the need for an EpiPen.
How to Prevent Rashes
- Reduce stress .
- Avoid scratchy materials (for example, wool) and chemicals that can be triggers, such as harsh soaps, detergents, and solvents.
- Moisturize often.
- Avoid sudden changes in temperature or humidity.
- Avoid situations that cause sweating and overheating.
- Immediately wash your hands when you come into contact with something you're allergic to.