With all the hype lately about Kim Kardashian and her psoriasis, it’s becoming a hot topic. The paparazzi went a little haywire there for a couple weeks, trying to get pictures of her legs or arms and the red bumps and scales. This is what you get for being in the spotlight and broadcasting such intimate medical details, I guess, but such exploitation makes me feel sick.
Unlike some of the other skin conditions we’ve discussed on this blog, psoriasis is a chronic condition. Once identified and treated with medication and/or lifestyle changes, it can go into remission, but it’s a disorder people have to live with forever. Psoriasis is an immune-mediated disease, which means that some faulty wiring in a person’s immune systems puts skin cell production into overdrive. Dead cells don’t slough off the skin’s surface as fast as new cells are produced, and gather and become patches or rashes, and can become quite painful.
The good news: it’s not communicable. (Remember this if you try to call in sick to work with psoriasis!)
The bad news: most doctors agree that it’s hereditary. So by saying “it’s not communicable” does not mean you didn’t get it from SOMEone.
There are several different ways psoriasis afflicts people:
• Red, patchy skin covered in flaky white scales (most common) (Plaque)
• Very intense redness that covers large portions of skin (Erythrodermic)
• Small pink dots on the skin (Guttate)
• Skin redness in places where skin touches skin: groin, armpits and behind the knees, etc (Inverse)
• White blisters with red skin (Pustular)
In general, consult a doctor for any persistent rash or skin irritation, and you might suspect psoriasis if there’s a family history of it and you see flaky, scaly skin.
Most experts agree that the cause of psoriasis is simple genetics. It comes on sometime between the ages 15 and 35, showing up as a rash or red, flaky skin. An outbreak can appear because of a variety of factors:
• Inadequate sunlight
• Overexposure to sunlight (there’s just no winning, I guess)
• Excessive alcohol consumption
• Some kinds of medicine (see also “Your Prozac might be making you scratch”)
• Infections (bacterial or viral)
• Excessive dryness (both environmental—air—and physical—skin)
Treatments: the clinical and the wild
Sadly, there’s no getting rid of it; we just have to learn to cope and be as comfortable as possible. There are a wide variety of creams and ointments available that could help (cortisone is commonly used), pills and injections, and even phototherapy. If you feel like stress is one of your outbreak triggers, you might consider taking yoga or getting acupuncture to help you relax. Or lay back in a nice, soothing oatmeal bath (there are several brands out there for bath supplements you just sprinkle in).
There are a number of wild claims on the Internet about cures, but take them with a grain of salt and big fat suitcase of skepticism. Before embarking on any treatment, discuss it with a dermatologist you trust (not just your GP), and if you don’t like what she says, seek a second opinion.
Are there any horror stories out there about dealing with psoriasis? What treatments have you tried, and how did they work? Any advice on what to ask a dermatologist regarding treatments or research on cures? Let us know in the comments!
Unfortunately, studies and records show that eczema, particularly in babies and children, is becoming a more common and widespread problem. The good news is that it’s not always a life-long affliction for kids (they often outgrow it by 5 years old), but it’s still painful and frustrating to treat as a parent (and no picnic for your wee one, either).
Many cases remain of undetermined origin, but there are some environmental and genetic variables that can play a part:
• Skin too dry (dehydrated or not enough natural oils, excessive sweating)
• Exposure to physical allergens and irritants
• Plain old bad luck (genetics)
In babies and young children, eczema shows up initially as red or swollen—sometimes pebbly or rough—skin, especially in skin folds that tend to stay damp: armpits, behind the knees, and in the groin area. Sometimes there are blisters or raised red bumps, and sometimes the scratching and dryness can get so bad the skin cracks and leaves open sores. Fussy, irritable babies with tender skin who dislike bath time might have a problem with eczema.
Treatment invariably depends on the cause, which is not always obvious. Please consult your pediatrician or a dermatologist in order to get direction on the proper course of treatment.Your doctor will evaluate your kiddo, and ask a lot of questions about his or her environment. Why? If your child’s skin reacts to the laundry detergent you use, resolving the issue could be as simple as switching brands or going to a “free and clear” version. Children’s skin often responds to diet changes as well; removing things like dairy, nuts or soy can improve eczema symptoms a surprising amount. There are lotions and creams, acupuncture and other homeopathic treatments, and even UV light treatments. Here are the biggies:
• Filter your child’s bath water (I can personally attest that this does help, as I have adult eczema, and it helps me!)
• Change laundry detergent, and dress your wee babe in 100% cotton clothing to allow the skin to breathe
• Perform an allergy test and identify possible contact or internal allergens (we’re looking at you, cow’s milk!)
• Remove certain Big Allergens from your kid’s diet (or stop eating them yourself, if you’re breastfeeding): cow’s milk, soy, nuts, eggs, fish, shellfish, and wheat
• Try keep your baby in a warm (not hot!), dry environment to minimize sweating (sorry, fellow Texans, you will fail this one)
• Try OTC hydrocortisone cream (though I’m not a huge fan of chemicals)
Those are just some of the remedies available. There are a lot of them out there on the web, but please be careful when trying them out! Always test first on yourself, and if there’s no reaction, a small part of your baby (with something handy to wipe/remove the solution if it’s not well received).
Does your child have eczema? What have you found works to help alleviate the symptoms? Share in the comments!
The pimple. The zit. The third eye. You go to bed thirty-something and wake up a teenager. You scream to yourself, “Why do I still have acne?” and that snarky little guy on your face just smiles back. Well, take comfort in the fact that you’re not the only one that seemed to have taken a swim in the hot tub time machine. Adult acne is very common. It affects 25 percent of adult men and 50 percent of adult women. Dermatologists are seeing more adult acne patients than ever before given a recent study that shows it’s increasing and lasting longer . Although the causes are unknown, possibilities include hormones, cosmetics, stress and an increase of resistant bacteria. But which treatment is the best one for you to keep your skin looking beautiful?
1. “Acne surgery.” It’s basically squeezing pimples. You get immediate results, but without the risk of infection, scarring or spreading.
2. Skin care products. But which do you buy without gawking down a whole aisle having to spend an hour reading every product on shelves? That depends on the type of acne you have. A trip to your dermatologist may save you time and money. Why spend a fortune trying different over-the-counter products when one prescription will do?
3. Topical retinoic acid. It’s a form of vitamin A and a safe alternative to Accutane. New slow-release forms have greatly reduced irritation.
4. Other treatments include: azelaic acid cream, alpha-hydroxy acids, benzoyl peroxide, topical antibiotics and birth control pills.
Not a stranger to these treatments? Why not try these…if you’re brave.
1. Number One Plus. It’s a sexual lubricant used in Cambodia for condoms. When applied, it dries out acne lesions.
2. Toothpaste. Be sure to use a white paste, not blue, clear or a gel.
3. Nightingale droppings. This is an ingredient used for facials and is performed by an Asian-inspired salon.
4. Egg white mask. Just rub on your face, let dry, then rinse. It leaves your skin smooth and supposed to have soothing, therapeutic effects on the skin.
Not that brave? Try this daily regimen:
What are your favorite acne treatments and regimens?
Oh, rashes. We’ve all encountered them in some form, mostly from an allergy or something we touch. Growing up on 10 acres of wooded land, I found myself adventuring outside to “explore” (usually poison ivy). I then got to explore the rash that would form on my skin, along with all the scratches I collected on my legs from stepping in briars, and all the itching that ensued. Rashes are a common skin condition that many children and adults experience and they are utterly annoying to deal with.
Rashes, also called dermatitis, are often caused by things that your skin touches (contact dermatitis) such as:
Cosmetics, soaps and detergents
- Jewelry (like all women, I’m allergic to fake gold)
- Dyes and other chemicals in clothing
- Poison ivy and poison oak
Common symptoms include:
Red rash or bumps
- Dry, red patches
- Blisters and draining fluid in severe cases
- Pain or tenderness
Irritant and allergic contact dermatitis
Contact dermatitis fall into two categories: Irritant and allergic. Irritant contact dermatitis is more common and caused by repeated contact with a substance that – wait for it – irritates the skin! Bleach is a substance that can cause this after just one exposure, as it removes oil and protective barriers in the skin. Allergic contact dermatitis is caused by a reaction to substances (allergens). The resulting rash, and sometimes blisters, is your body’s response to the allergen. It can take several years to develop
an allergy, which will then last for life.
Most the time you have to ride out the rash, which is the most annoying part of developing a rash. After taking antibiotics, I developed a rash that lasted for two weeks and the only remedy that significantly soothed my itching was olive oil. Olive oil has healing and renewal properties and helps restore moisture to the skin. The only thing more annoying than having to apply this on my skin is the craving of bread that followed. Other self-help remedies include:
- Witch hazel
- Aloe Vera
- Calendula Essential Oil
- Baking Powder
- St. John’s Wort
- Wild Pansy
Prolonged scratching may increase the intensity of the itch and lead to Neurodermatitis, so it’s best to keep your skin as moisturized as possible. The chlorine that is in your shower water can exacerbate itching, as it strips your skin of its natural moisture. Installing a shower filter that removes chlorine, as well as other contaminants, is one of the best things you can do for persistently itchy skin.
When to see a doctor
Some rashes may require a visit to your dermatologist or family doctor. See your doctor if:
- You’re so uncomfortable that you’re losing sleep or daily routines are interrupted.
- Your skin is painful
- Your skin becomes infected
- Self-care has failed
- You feel the cause is job-related
When most people think of dermatology, they probably think of beauty. No longer are dermatologists known for removing embarrassing warts or moles, but for chemical peels and Botox. They are the go-to person for making skin beautifully flawless. But dermatologists also engage clients to help them deal with some of the more unsightly dermal concerns: skin abnormalities, rashes and cysts, among other things.
My own first meeting with a dermatologist was over a cyst. Cysts are a common abnormality that often appear on the face and neck, but can appear anywhere on the body. They’re just plain ugly, and coming from personal experience, I can assure you that they’re embarrassing and made me feel self-conscience. I even had people ask if I had cancer!
What is a Cyst?
A cyst is a noncancerous, closed pocket of tissue that can form anywhere in the body and is common on the skin. Skin cysts develop due to an infection, clogging of sebaceous glands (also called oil glands), and may form around foreign bodies in the skin, like piercings. Certain factors increase the possibility of developing a cyst such as:
• Age (30s or 40s)
• Damaged hair follicles (skin abrasions or wounds)
• Trauma (skin is crushed or broken from an injury, such as hitting your finger with a hammer)
• Birth Defects
Common Skin Cysts at a Glance:
Cysts are usually noticeable and tend to be slow-growing, painless and can be rolled under the skin. Some of the most common types of skin cysts include:
• Epidermoid cysts (which men are twice as likely to have): the most common type of skin cysts (this was the type I had) and are often mislabeled as sebaceous cysts, which are a rare type of cyst. Epidermoid cysts range in size from ¼ inch to 2 inches (Mine was about an inch).
• Lipoma: a fatty lump that tends to grow slowly over time and is usually discovered accidentally.
• Pilar cysts: form from hair follicles and commonly occur on the scalp.
• Milia: tiny white bumps or small cysts on the skin. These cysts are common in newborns, which then are called Epstein’s pearls, and go away on their own.
• Pilmatrixoma: a slow-growing, hard mass found beneath the skin. Occurs most commonly on the face and neck and is seen mostly in children under 10.
The treatment of most cysts depends upon cause, size and location. Removal of the cyst is done at your doctor or dermatologist’s discretion, as some cysts can be drained or aspirated, or injected with a cortisone shot (My dermatologist gave me a cortisone shot, which resulted in an infection, so instead of a smallish size cyst, I had what looked like a goiter. I went back and it was drained – yuck! – and removed). Some cysts disappear on their own without treatment. Most people elect to have their cyst drained or removed for cosmetic reasons or to prevent further growth of the cyst. Pilmatrixoma cysts are removed surgically as an outpatient procedure.
Some skin cysts can be prevented by keeping your skin clean and avoiding skin irritation. Using a shower filter that filters out harsh chlorine to keep your skin soft and less dry may help reduce irritation. Use gentle, oil-free cleansers, wear soft, cotton clothing, and adjust anything that may rub against your skin.
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As you may or may not be aware, dermatology is the field of medicine that focuses on the skin: skin diseases and disorders. This includes things as varied as hair removal and implantation, skin cancer treatment, skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis and (the most unfair of plagues) acne, to plastic surgery like liposuction and face lifts.
And just how, you might ask, is dermatology related to water and water filtration?
For hair removal issues, plastic surgery and cancer, water is important for all the usual health reasons, but has little impact aside from that. Where water becomes an essential component of dermatology issues are in the areas of skin health and skin disorders. Proper hydration is often the heart and soul of health in general, but it particularly affects the skin. Lack of adequate hydration can exacerbate (or cause) rashes, eczema, allergic reactions and other topical ailments.
Along the same lines, the water you wash with can affect the quality and vitality of your skin in surprising ways. City water contains a whole raft of contaminants in varying concentrations, some of which have been shown to be harmful to your skin. Chlorine in particular is cause for concern. We all know how it feels when you get out of a chlorinated pool: the itchy, dry, tight feeling plagues you until you can rinse off with less chlorinated water. But there’s chlorine in your shower water, too, if in lesser amounts, and it’s still not good for you.
Dermatology and you
For the next several weeks, be on the lookout for blog posts, Facebook and Twitter activities, and general buzz on Aquasana.com and our other community channels that relate to dermatology and skin issues. The subject is near and dear to our hearts, and we have undertaken a mission to shed light on various dermatology topics. With that in mind, we’ve found some really excellent resources about dermatology and skin conditions out there on the net:
Related, interesting sites on dermatology…