Skin rash is an umbrella term used to describe a wide range of skin reactions. There are countless causes of skin irritation, and skin rashes may take a variety of forms. Most cases of skin rash result in skin that is itchy, red, swollen, scaly, dry, or blistering. The symptoms and appearance of a skin rash will often help determine the irritant causing the reaction. Conditions that cause common skin rashes include:
Sunburn: We've all been there. Prolonged exposure to UV rays from sunlight or sunlamps can lead to red, dry, hot, and blistering skin. Even your eyes can be burned by the sun, resulting in a gritty feeling, headaches, and eye twitches. After a few days, a sunburn will start to peel as the skin heals itself. There is no cure for sunburn, and symptoms usually dissipate within a few days, but you can use moisturizer and sunscreen to ease discomfort and prevent further damage.
Allergens: Atopic dermatitis (eczema) and contact dermatitis occur when the skin has an allergic reaction after exposure to an irritant. Poison ivy, sumac, poison oak, ingredients in creams or lotions, and nickel metal are all examples of irritants that may cause an allergic reaction. Eczema may also be caused by dry skin, genetics, or an immune system condition. Most allergic reactions result in itchy skin, red spots, and scaly patches around the affected area. Dermatitis on the scalp can cause dandruff and hair loss if left untreated.
Fungi: Fungal infections are skin diseases caused by fungi living on the skin. Common types of fungal infections include athlete's foot, diaper rash, yeast infections, and ringworm. These skin infections appear in warm, moist places and often occur as a side effect of poor hygiene. For instance, diaper rash is commonly caused by babies sitting too long in dirty diapers. Ringworm and athlete's foot are often passed through human-to-human contact with an infected person or a surface with fungi living on it. Fungal infections can lead to red rashes, itchiness, blisters, or peeling skin.
Bacterial infection: Bacterial infections occur when bacteria enter the body through a cut or scrape on the skin. Impetigo, boils, leprosy, scarlet fever, and cellulitis are common forms of bacterial infections. These skin conditions are highly contagious and may cause lesions that ooze, ulcers, itchy skin, and swelling. Scarlet fever can result in a fever, sore throat, and a red rash on much of the body.
Viral infection: Like bacterial infections, viral infections occur when a virus enters the body through a break in the skin (usually a cut or scrape). Viral infections may produce different symptoms, depending on the virus. Common viral infections of the skin include shingles, chickenpox, and warts. Shingles and chickenpox are caused by the same virus and result in itchy rashes, red spots, and blisters on the skin. Warts are caused by an infection from the human papillomavirus (HPV) and result in small, scaly bumps on the skin.
Chronic skin disorders: Conditions such as lupus, rosacea, and psoriasis are chronic skin disorders that may occur without cause, or as a side effect of an autoimmune condition. Lupus and rosacea result in red rashes on the cheeks and nose, while psoriasis produces red, scaly, and itchy skin on the scalp. These conditions can be treated, but not cured.
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