Skin testing is a common diagnostic tool used to identify the specific allergens that trigger contact dermatitis and, occasionally, systemic allergic reactions. Common trigger substances include cleaning solutions, detergents, cosmetics, perfumes, latex rubber and poison ivy.
In allergic contact dermatitis, particular substances cause an immune system reaction in sensitive individuals when they come into contact with the skin. Some of these reactions are idiosyncratic, varying from patient to patient. Others, like the allergen in poison ivy, cause allergic reactions in almost everyone. The reaction to trigger substances causes localized symptoms after exposure. These symptoms may include:
These symptoms sometimes appear immediately and sometimes take a day or two to appear. When mild, they are usually be treated at home through antihistamines and topical creams. In more severe cases, oral corticosteroids may be administered.The best protection against contact dermatitis is to identify the specific triggers and avoid them.
It is also possible for skin contact with allergens to result in systemic reactions, such as rhinitis, eye watering, sinusitis or asthma, so skin allergy tests may be administered to diagnose the root causes of such allergic reactions. Only penicillin and certain related medication allergies are commonly tested for in this manner, however, since the risk of a systemic reaction to food substances or other medications is considered to be too great.
Bacterial infection of the skin, also called cellulitis, occurs when a break in the skin allows bacteria that normally live on the surface to enter the body, causing inflammation, redness, pain, warmth, fever/chills, fatigue and muscle aches. The break itself may arise from an animal or insect bite or sting, after some surgeries, with the use of certain drugs, or from skin wounds due to injury, diabetic or ischemic ulcers, or if the patient has peripheral vascular disease. Left untreated, bacterial infection can lead to tissue death (gangrene), sepsis, generalized infection, shock, meningitis (if cellulitis is on the face) and lymphangitis (inflammation of the lymph vessels). Treatment may require hospitalization, oral antibiotics or analgesics to control pain.
Fungal infections of the skin are caused by microscopic organisms that live on the hair, nails (onychomycosis), mouth (angular cheilitis/oral thrush) and outer skin layers. They are quite common; the fungal infection cutaneous candidiasis, for example, which occurs in warm, moist crevices of the body, is the usual cause of diaper rash and vaginal yeast infections. Fungal infections are most likely to occur in people with diabetes, who are obese, or who take antibiotics or oral contraceptives. They are treatable (sometimes with difficulty) but often recur. Treatments include topical and systemic antifungal medications.
There are several different diseases that affect the nails, often as a result of a fungal or bacterial infection. Ingrown toenails are the most common nail ailment, involving the corners of the nails digging into the surrounding soft tissue, causing irritation and swelling. Fungal infection commonly affects the toenails (and sometimes the fingernails as well), as a result of exposure to a warm, moist environment, and cause thick, brittle and distorted nails.
Treatment for nail diseases may include oral or topical medications. The nail may need to be removed for severe infections. Patients can prevent nail conditions from developing by keeping the feet clean and dry, wearing shoes that fit well and clipping toenails straight across.
Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that causes redness and swelling on the face. Symptoms range from red pimples, lines and visible blood vessels to dry or burning skin and a tendency to flush easily. While there is no cure for rosacea, there are plenty of effective treatments available.
First and foremost, daily use of sunscreen is essential to reduce the likelihood of rosacea flare ups. Topical treatments such as Metrogel, Finacea and sulfur creams or washes can successfully decrease the appearance of symptoms. There are also cosmaceuticals, such as Avene's Diroseal, which feature a green tint that can neutralize redness and minimize swelling. Oracea is an oral medication that helps reduce the bumps and blemishes so common in rosacea. For more persistent cases, the Vbeam pulsed dye laser can safely, comfortably and effectively treat rosacea, virtually eliminating the redness and lesions associated with this condition.
Tinea versicolor is a skin condition caused by a fungal infection. This common disorder is brought on by a reaction to a type of yeast that is normally present on the skin without any problem. It most often develops on boys and men in their teens or 20s during warm weather. Tinea versicolor appears as patches on the skin that are scaly and discolored. These spots can be several colors, including white, pink, tan, red or brown and they prevent the skin from tanning. The patches usually form on the back, underarms, upper arms, chest and neck but may appear anywhere and sometimes become itchy.
Tinea versicolor is diagnosed by a skin scraping test or examination under a special lamp to check for the presence of the fungi. It is generally treated with topical antifungal medications. Using an antifungal shampoo or lotion on the affected skin may also relieve symptoms.
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