Medical

Pigmentary Disorders

Age Spots

Age spots on the skin are a common sign of aging. Also known as brown spots or liver spots, they are flat painless areas, light brown to black in color. Age spots tend to appear on the parts of the body that are most likely to be uncovered and unprotected from the sun, such as the face, hands, arms, shoulders and feet. They vary in size, but are larger than freckles. Age spots are most common in people older than 40. Many people with age spots are unhappy and embarrassed by them, especially when they are located in noticeable areas. There are numerous treatments available to improve them and help patients achieve clear, blemish-free skin once again.

Hyperpigmentation

Hyperpigmentation of the skin is caused when the cells that make melanin, which are responsible for the skin's pigmentation, become damaged or unhealthy. Skin that has too much melanin is referred to as being hyperpigmented. Hyperpigmentation is often caused by exposure to ultraviolet light, taking the hormones estrogen and progesterone and the aging process.

There are a number of effective methods available for treating hyperpigmentation of the skin. Some of the most successful approaches include bleaching, chemical peels, microdermabrasion, laser treatments and cryotherapy.

Hypopigmentation

Hypopigmentation of the skin is caused when the cells that make melanin, which are responsible for the skin's pigmentation, become damaged or unhealthy. Skin that has too little melanin appears lighter than its normal color and is referred to as being hypopigmented.

One of the most common causes of hypopigmentation of the skin is vitiligo, an autoimmune disorder that results in the formation of white spots. It has no cure, but can sometimes be effectively treated with topical corticosteroids or ultraviolet light therapy. Another major cause of hypopigmentation is skin damage due to infection or some type of trauma to the area. This is often a temporary form of hypopigmentation, but it may not resolve for some time. Hypopigmentation can usually be readily camouflaged with certain cosmetic products.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a term that encompasses a group of chronic skin disorders that affect any part of the body from the scalp to the toenails, but most frequently affect the scalp, elbows, knees, hands, feet and genitals. Over seven million men and women in the U.S. of all ages have some form of psoriasis, which may be mild, moderate or severe. In addition, it may be categorized into different types: plaque, pustular, erythrodermic, guttate or inverse psoriasis. Most forms involve an itching and/or burning sensation, scaling and crusting of the skin.Type-specific symptoms include:

  • Plaque Psoriasis (the most common type): raised, thickened patches of red skin covered with silvery-white scales;
  • Pustular Psoriasis: pus-like blisters;
  • Erythrodermic Psoriasis: intense redness and swelling of a large part of the skin surface;
  • Guttate Psoriasis: small, drop-like lesions;
  • Inverse Psoriasis: smooth red lesions in the folds of the skin.

While the cause of psoriasis has yet to be discovered, suspected triggers include emotional stress, skin injury, systemic infections and certain medications. There is a possibility that susceptibility to psoriasis is inherited.

Normally the outer layer of skin, which consists of keratinocytes, is replaced unnoticeably, about once a month. This process is faster in people with psoriasis; keratinocytes reach the skin surface too quickly, before they can be properly incorporated into surrounding tissue or even before they are fully mature. As a result, the skin flakes off. This sped-up process is called parakeratosis.

Psoriasis cannot be cured but it can be treated successfully, sometimes for months or years and occasionally even permanently. Treatment depends on the type, severity and location of psoriasis; the patient's age, medical history and lifestyle; and the effect the disease has on the patient's general mental health. The most common treatments are topical medications, phototherapy, photochemotherapy (PUVA), and oral or injectable medication (for severe symptoms).

Rashes

Rashes are changes in the skin's color or texture. Simple rashes are called dermatitis, which means the skin is inflamed or swollen. Some rashes are independent symptoms, but many cause itching, burning or other discomfort. There are a great many reasons for individuals to develop rashes.

Types of Rashes

Rashes occur for a variety of reasons, some relatively benign, some extremely serious. Many rashes look similar to one another so their causes may be difficult to diagnose. Types of rashes include:

  • Contact Dermatitis
  • Allergic Rashes
  • Seborrheic Dermatitis
  • Viral or Bacterial Skin Conditions
  • Systemic Diseases
  • Rashes Caused by Sun or Heat
  • Stress Rashes

Treatment of Rashes

When a rash is caused by an underlying condition or disease process, the patient must be treated for the pervasive disorder. When a rash is the result of a bacterial infection, it is treated with antibiotics. When a rash stems from a virus, it may be treated with antiviral medication. Allergic rashes are normally treated with antihistamines and, when more severe, with corticosteroids. In many cases, avoidance of contact with the irritating substance or material may be sufficient to help the rash abate.

Almost all rashes that cause itching can be treated symptomatically with one or more of the following: antihistamines, soothing lotions like Calamine, topical or oral corticosteroids, baths with colloidal oatmeal, moisturizing creams or cold compresses. Wearing soft, loose clothing and taking over-the-counter pain relievers may also provide relief.