Skin is the largest organ of the human body covering a surface area of about two square metres, and accounting for some 16% of your entire body weight. Consisting of two main layers, the small outer layer known as the epidermis, and a larger inner layer called the dermis, the main functions of the skin are protection from infection and damage, and body temperature regulation. The skin secretes special substances that can kill harmful bacteria, and it produces melanin, a pigment to defend the skin from ultraviolet light. Keratin is produced on the outer epidermis to help protect against damage, infection, and becoming too dry.
However, sometimes the balance of oils and bacterial defences can be breached or slip out of balance, resulting in a host of skin problems ranging from slightly irritating to life-long problems. This article covers a few of the more common skin problems and how to treat them.
This article on skin problems is written by Jackie Griffiths, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.
Acne is a skin problem characterised by clusters of spots, pustules and painful red nodules, caused by an excessive secretion of the oily substance sebum. Sebum normally helps keep the skin supple and smooth, but when over-produced it can stop dead skins cells from shedding properly, leading to blockages in pores and hair follicles. This can encourage a build up of bacteria which causes lots of little infections on the surface of the skin resulting in spots.
Acne commonly affects teenagers going through puberty – a time when the skin becomes more sensitive to the hormone testosterone (found in both girls and boys). Testosterone causes an increase in the production of sebum which can lead to acne. However there are other causes of acne, including stress, genetics, PCOS, certain medications, and some dangerous chemicals. It cannot be caused by eating chocolate or greasy food or by poor hygiene, although if you don’t wash regularly it can exacerbate the problem you already have. Although acne skin problems cannot be completely cured they can be treated keeping the condition at a minimum. Common treatments include special gels and creams that can be applied directly to the skin, or taking tablets designed to loosen excess skin cells and reduce the production of sebum.
Eczema is an inherited chronic skin problem causing patches of skin to become very dry, itchy, flaky, and red. Commonly found in young children, some babies develop the condition soon after birth. Although over 60% of children with eczema will have grown out of it by the time they are teenagers, it can sometimes flare up again in adult life. Triggers for a flare up include allergens, such as house dust mites, pet fur, pollen; certain foods (dairy, nuts, soya, etc) hormonal changes, stress, weather, and sweating. If you experience a flare up, you should try your best to avoid scratching as this can aggravate the skin or cause bacteria to infect the area causing complications. Treatments for eczema skin problems include emollients (soothing creams and lotions), corticosteroids (active creams to reduce inflammation), and antihistamines.
Psoriasis is a chronic skin problem originating in the immune system, which causes the skin to replace itself too quickly in certain places. This results in patches of thick, red or silvery, scaly skin which can be itchy, but is not contagious. The exact cause is unknown but people with psoriasis sometimes develop other serious health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or depression. Most common on the knees, elbows, and scalp, triggers for psoriasis include throat or chest infections, skin injuries, drug treatments, sunburn, and stress. There are many different treatments for psoriasis that will effectively control the condition, although there isn’t a cure at present. You may be prescribed topical creams and lotions that contain corticosteroids, vitamins, or coal tar, which may be used in combination with light therapy and/or oral or injected medication. In addition, there are lots of complimentary therapies available that claim to help sooth skin problems like psoriasis.
Rosacea is a skin problem characterised by lots of tiny spots or bumps on the face causing a red, flushed or sunburnt appearance. Previously invisible blood vessels can become obvious and the skin may thicken, especially around the nose. Unfortunately, the exact cause of rosacea is not known but doctors agree that a number of factors usually combine to set it off. These include genetics, stress, weather, alcohol, bacteria, a small mite that normally lives harmlessly on the skin called demodex folliculorum, abnormalities in facial blood vessels, and some medical conditions and drug treatments. There is a range of treatments, from creams and gels, to antibiotic tablets and tetracyclines. It’s also recommended that you look into your lifestyle and try to avoid situations that may trigger a flare-up or aggravate the condition.
There are many other common skin problems, such as warts and verrucas, rashes, dandruff, impetigo, vitiligo, dermatitis and more, each with different causes, symptoms and treatments. If you think you have a skin condition that’s causing you discomfort, make an appointment with your doctor for a diagnosis, and so you can discuss various treatment programmes.