A walk through a drugstore or an hour in front of the television should convince anyone of the importance that healthy skin holds in terms of self-image and society’s idea of beauty. Perfect skin is, for most people, a distant dream. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, 85 percent of Americans will experience acne at some point in their lives, 40 to 50 million people have it at any given time, and Americans spend over $2 billion per year treating and preventing it.

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For most individuals, acne is a temporary condition that fades in severity with age. With other skin conditions, the symptoms are neither so common nor so benign. Dozens of different skin disorders exist, with huge variation in symptoms and severity. Skin disorders can be:

  • temporary or permanent
  • treatable or incurable
  • situational or genetic
  • painless or agonizing
  • minor inconveniences or life-threatening diagnoses

There is some disagreement among dermatologists about the prevalence of different skin conditions. In addition to the conditions below, nearly all individuals develop wrinkles and age spots as they get older. Some of the most common skin conditions include:

  • moles
  • chickenpox
  • acne
  • rashes
  • hives
  • eczema (atopic, allergic, or nummular dermatitis)
  • skin cancer
  • rosacea
  • seborrheic dermatitis (causing cradle cap or dandruff)
  • psoriasis
  • vitiligo
  • impetigo
  • warts

Temporary Skin Conditions

In addition to acne, many other temporary skin conditions affect millions of Americans each year. Contact dermatitis, for instance, is one of the most common occupational illnesses. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it results in over $1 billion in treatment costs and lost productivity annually. Contact dermatitis is often caused by contact with chemicals or other irritating materials. It’s typically treatable with topical creams and avoidance of the irritant. Depending on whether the condition is the result of contact with an irritant or an allergy, treatment and prevention strategies will differ.

Other temporary skin conditions include disorders as common as small and rough bumps on the arms and thighs (keratosis pilaris) and as rare as acute painful lesions on the arms, face, and neck accompanied by fever (neutrophilic dermatosis). Although they have significantly different manifestations they can both cause embarrassment and significant treatment expenditures.

Permanent Skin Conditions

Most permanent skin conditions result from a genetic trait that predisposes an individual to the development of the disorder. Some are present from birth, while others appear suddenly later in life. Still others only appear after an illness weakens the individual’s immune system.

Examples of chronic skin conditions include rosacea, psoriasis, and vitiligo. Although some permanent skin disorders have effective treatments that enable extended periods of remission, others are incurable and always active.

Skin Disorders in Children

Children can get many of the same skin problems as adults. Infants and toddlers are also at risk for diaper-related skin problems. Because of their exposure to other children and to germs, kids may also experience skin problems not commonly had by adults. Although many childhood skin problems disappear with age, children can also inherit skin disorders that are genetic and permanent.

Children are more likely than adults to get rashes or hives in response to food or environmental allergens. They are also more likely than adults to experience childhood illnesses like chickenpox or measles. In most cases, childhood skin disorders that are temporary can be treated with topical creams, tepid baths, or condition-specific drugs. According to the Cleveland Clinic, common childhood skin disorders include:

  • eczema (atopic dermatitis)
  • diaper dermatitis
  • seborrheic dermatitis (cradle cap)
  • chickenpox and measles
  • warts
  • acne
  • roseola
  • Fifth disease
  • hives
  • ringworm
  • rashes from bacterial or fungal infections
  • rashes from allergic reactions

Causes of Skin Disorders

Some skin conditions have no known cause. Many permanent skin disorders may arise from a combination of genetic susceptibility and environmental stressors like illness, allergens, or exposure to irritants.

Common known causes of skin disorders include:

  • bacteria trapped in skin pores and hair follicles
  • fungus, parasites, or microorganisms living in the skin
  • viral infections
  • weakened immune system (with or without coexisting infection)
  • contact with allergens, irritants, or another person’s infected skin
  • genes and inherited susceptibility
  • illnesses affecting the thyroid, immune system, kidney, and other body systems
  • diet and lifestyle

In addition, some health conditions and lifestyle factors are linked with specific skin disorders.

Crohn’s Disease and Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Bowel-related and autoimmune disorders often cause symptoms outside of the gastrointestinal tract. These diseases can cause or aggravate skin conditions. In addition, the drugs used to treat these diseases can cause skin problems. According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, skin problems related to Crohn’s disease and other inflammatory bowel conditions include:

  • erythema nodosum
  • pyoderma gangrenosum
  • enterocutaneous fistulas
  • skin tags
  • anal fissures
  • aphthous stomatitis
  • acrodermatitis enteropathica
  • pyoderma vegetans and vasculitis
  • epidermolysis bullosa acquista
  • vitiligo
  • allergy skin rashes


According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), about one-third of all people with diabetes will have a skin problem caused or affected by diabetes at some point in their lives. Some of these skin problems are exclusive to people with diabetes. Others occur because diabetics may be more susceptible to circulation and infection problems. Diabetes-related skin conditions include:

  • bacterial infections (boils, styes, folliculitis, carbuncles, and nail infections)
  • fungal infections (athlete’s foot, ringworm, and common yeast infections)
  • diabetic dermopathy
  • necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum
  • atherosclerosis
  • bullosis diabeticorum
  • eruptive xanthomatosis
  • digital sclerosis
  • disseminated granuloma annulare
  • acanthosis nigricans


Lupus is a skin disease that can occur in three forms. These are chronic cutaneous (discoid) lupus erythematosus, subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus, and acute cutaneous lupus erythematosus. The sun often worsens lupus skin problems. Each of these forms of lupus causes different skin problems. They include:

  • round lesions on the face and head
  • thick, red, scaly disc-shaped lesions
  • red, ring-shaped lesions on body parts exposed to sunlight
  • hair loss
  • flat rash on the face and body that looks like a sunburn
  • calcinosis cutis
  • small, red-purple or black spots on fingers and toes
  • sores inside the mouth and nose
  • tiny red spots on the legs
  • Reynaud’s phenomenon
  • livedo reticularis
  • palmar erythema


Pregnancy causes significant changes in the amount and types of hormones in the body. These fluctuations may result in skin problems. Pre-existing skin problems may change or worsen during pregnancy. Most skin conditions that arise during pregnancy go away after the baby is born. Others require medical attention during pregnancy. Unfortunately, some pregnancy-related skin problems don’t resolve after childbirth. Skin conditions caused by pregnancy include:

  • striae gravidarum (stretch marks)
  • hyperpigmentation and melasma (the mask of pregnancy)
  • prurigo
  • pemphigoid gestationis
  • impetigo herpetiformis
  • pruritic folliculitis
  • pruritic urticarial papules and plaques (PUPP)
  • intrahepatic cholestasis
  • dermatitis


Stress can cause or aggravate skin disorders. This may happen because of the effects of stress on the body, such as increasing levels of a type of hormone called glucocorticoids. The field of psychodermatology specifically studies the connection between the mind and the skin. Stress-related skin problems include:

  • eczema
  • psoriasis
  • trichotillomania
  • acne
  • rosacea
  • ichthyosis
  • vitiligo
  • hives
  • seborrheic dermatitis
  • alopecia areata
  • psychogenic purpura
  • hemangiomas


The sun can cause many different skin disorders. Some, like wrinkles, are common and benign. Others are rare or life threatening. Knowing if your skin disorder is caused — or made worse — by the sun can be important for treating it properly. The following conditions can be caused or aggravated by sun exposure:

  • skin cancer (melanomas, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma)
  • solar elastosis (wrinkles)
  • age or sun spots
  • sunburn
  • freckles
  • photosensitivity
  • moles
  • polymorphus light eruption (PMLE)

Symptoms of Skin Disorders

Skin conditions have a wide range of symptoms. Symptoms that appear because of common problems are not often signs of a skin disease or disorder. This can include blisters from new shoes or chafing from tight pants. Skin problems that have no immediately identifiable cause may be a sign of an actual skin condition requiring treatment.

Although pictures are the best way to identify specific skin problems, irregularities that are signs of a skin disorder include:

  • raised bumps that are red or white in color
  • a rash, with or without pain or itch
  • scaly or rough skin
  • chafing and peeling skin
  • ulcers
  • open sores or lesions
  • dry, cracked skin
  • discolored patches of skin
  • fleshy bumps, nodules, warts, or other skin growths
  • changes in mole color or size
  • loss of skin pigment
  • excessive flushing with or without stimulus

Treating Skin Disorders

Many skin disorders may be helped by topical, oral, or subcutaneous treatment.

Common treatment methods for treatable skin conditions include:

  • antihistamines
  • steroid cream and pills
  • antibiotics
  • vitamin or steroid injections
  • laser therapy
  • targeted prescription medications

Not all skin disorders respond to treatment.

Permanent skin conditions often go through phases or cycles of severe symptoms. Certain incurable conditions can be forced into remission. However, most conditions reappear during times of stress, illness, or overexertion. Painful skin disorders can be partially addressed with pain medication. Skin conditions that involve open sores, lesions, or contagions may also be treated with medical ointments and bandages.

Skin disorders that are temporary and merely cosmetic in nature can often be treated with:

  • medicated make-up
  • over-the-counter skin care products
  • hygiene techniques
  • small lifestyle changes

In addition, some skin conditions can be treated or improved with changes in diet.

Preventing Skin Disorders

Some skin disorders cannot be prevented. Genetic conditions and disorders that are brought on by other illnesses cannot be avoided. However, it’s possible to prevent some skin disorders.

Avoiding contact with people or items that may carry the disease can sometimes prevent infectious conditions like ringworm and scabies. Infectious skin disorders can often be prevented by:

  • following proper hand hygiene
  • avoiding contact with the infected skin of others
  • avoiding contact with the mucus of individuals with a skin or other infection
  • cleaning public spaces (like gym equipment or toilet seats) before use
  • wearing protective clothing and shoes
  • not sharing personal items such as blankets, hairbrushes, shoes, or swimsuits
  • getting plenty of rest, staying hydrated, and avoiding excessive physical or emotional stress
  • eating a nutritious diet
  • getting vaccinated for infectious skin conditions, such as chickenpox

Non-infectious skin disorders, such as acne and atopic dermatitis, can sometimes be prevented. Although prevention techniques will vary depending on the condition, some preventive steps include:

  • following proper hand and skin-washing hygiene
  • using moisturizer
  • avoiding breaks in the skin
  • avoiding environmental and dietary allergens
  • avoiding contact with harsh chemicals or other irritants
  • avoiding overexposure to water (from swimming or washing too frequently)
  • getting plenty of rest, staying hydrated, and avoiding excessive physical or emotional stress
  • eating a nutritious diet
  • protecting skin from excessive cold, heat, dryness, and wind

Learning about proper skin care and skin disorder treatment can be very important for skin health. Some conditions require the attention of a doctor, while others can be safely addressed at home. Read about your symptoms or condition to learn the best ways to treat or cure your skin disorder and to prevent its exacerbation.