Skin Conditions Causes

Causes of skin disorders range from sunburn and drug reactions to genetics and pregnancy. Many of the causes can be avoided with a little prevention, while others are more random in occurrence. Below are the most common causes of skin disorders.

Skin Infections

Skin infections have a viral, bacterial or fungal basis. Rashes caused by athlete’s foot, impetigo, and chicken pox all fall into this category. Bacterial and fungal skin infections are usually successfully treated with antibiotics and other medications. Viral skin infections must be combated by the body ‘s own immune system, although the symptoms associated with the infection can be treated. Skin disorders caused by infections may appear as rashes or other types of lesions such as pustules.

Sun Exposure, Sunburn and Heat Rash

Sunlight contains harmful ultraviolet rays that can damage the skin. Sunburn increases your chance of developing a skin condition, as does tanning and lengthy unprotected exposure to the sun. Skin cancer is the best known condition caused by sunburn and tanning. Premature aging of the skin also occurs with prolonged exposure to the sun.

Certain drug reactions increase the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight, thereby increasing the chance of sunburn or heat rash. A skin disorder called hyperpigmentation, where areas of skin become darker than the surrounding area, can be caused by unprotected exposure to sunlight. As hyperpigmentation may also be caused by drug reactions, excessive sun exposure while taking certain medications is ill advised.

In hot, humid weather, prickly heat rash can develop. Staying cool and dry, wearing light, cool clothing and drying thoroughly after bathing are the best defenses against the irritating prickly heat of the heat rash pustules.

Pregnancy

Certain skin conditions occur more often during pregnancy. Almost ninety percent of pregnant women have temporary hyperpigmentation where naturally darker areas of pigmentation (such as freckles, scars, moles, and nipples) appear darker than usual. The condition slowly disappears after childbirth.

Melasma, or the “mask of pregnancy ” affects approximately seventy percent of all pregnant women. Skin pigmentation darkens in sun-exposed areas such as the face. The condition usually resolves itself after childbirth, but skin specialists recommend that pregnant women avoid excessive sun exposure to prevent the problem from worsening.

Natural Irritants and Allergies

Many temporary skin problems are caused by natural sources. Insect bites inflame and irritate the skin. Poison ivy and other irritating plants cause skin rashes, pustules and itching. Parasites such as lice and mites can cause extreme itching and discomfort.

A food allergy can cause skin rashes, hives and even facial swelling. While the symptoms of a food allergy are often dramatic, tracking down the food that causes the allergic reaction can sometimes take time. If you suspect you have a food allergy, consult your doctor: allergy testing may be in order.

Diaper rash is caused by exposure to urine and feces, allergies to disposable diapers, soaps and detergents, or by diapers that are worn too tightly or do not breathe. While most cases of diaper rash are mild and resolve in a day or two, more severe cases form painful pustules that cover the baby ‘s bottom, and may even result in a yeast infection. All cases of diaper rash should be monitored for potential secondary infection by bacteria or yeast.

Drug Reactions

Adverse drug reactions can cause rashes, hives, and swelling. As mentioned above, some medications increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun. Notify your doctor of any skin problem that develops after you start a new medication.

Genetics

Finally, there are genetic propensities for skin conditions. People whose parents suffer from skin-affecting allergies may themselves be at increased risk of developing allergies. Acne has a hereditary pattern, as do some other common skin conditions.

Resources

American Academy of Dermatology. (2001). Expecting a baby? Expect some changes in your hair, skin and nails. Retrieved March 20, 2002, from www.hairlosstalk.com/newsletter/72001/articles/article16.htm.

American Academy of Dermatology. (1999). Acne. Retrieved March 19, 2002, from www.dermatologychannel.net/follicle/acne/.

American Academy of Dermatology. (1999). Patient information pamphlets. Retrieved March 19, 2002, from www.aad.org/pamphlets/.

Smith, J. (nd). Sun exposure: Precautions and protection. Retrieved March 21, 2002 from www.ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/5000/5550.html.