10 Types of Skin Rashes You Should Never Ignore

10 Types of Skin Rashes You Should Never Ignore

Skin rashes are rarely regarded as more than a minor annoyance. After all, in most cases, they simply cause irritation, inflammation, and itching, but aren’t really life-threatening. While this may often hold true, skin rashes do not occur in isolation and are connected to other bodily processes. This means that untreated skin rashes can increase the risk of more serious health conditions that severely compromise quality of life. Here are 10 skin rashes that you should never ignore, no matter how harmless they might appear to be.

1) Psoriasis

Psoriasis is characterized by patches of red inflamed skin with thick, silvery scales. Although the causes of psoriasis are not fully understood, the condition is linked to an overactive immune response.

Why psoriasis is dangerous

Severe psoriasis can lead to folate deficiency, which in turn increases the risk of heart disease. It is also associated with other health problems such as diabetes and obesity.

How psoriasis is treated

Although this is a chronic condition, psoriasis treatment can provide symptom relief and lower the risk of complications. Common treatments include steroid and retinoid creams, calcineurin inhibitors, and light therapy.

Learn more about psoriasis treatment options from Everyday Health’s conversations with leading dermatologists.

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2) Shingles

Shingles causes a painful rash that appears as a “blister belt” across the torso. This rash occurs when the dormant chickenpox virus within an individual’s nerve tissues is reactivated, resulting in a painful rash that lasts for 2-5 weeks.

Why shingles is dangerous

Shingles doesn’t just affect the skin, but can have wide-reaching effects throughout the body. It increases the risk of eye infections that may lead to vision loss and can also cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or facial paralysis.

How shingles is treated

Early treatment speeds up the healing process and reduces the risk of complications. Shingles treatment generally consists of antiviral drugs, corticosteroids, and numbing gels or skin patches.

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3) Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a tick borne infection that manifests in a fine rash, which appears on the arms, legs, and sometimes on the palms and foot soles. It is typically accompanied by fever and headaches.

Why Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is dangerous

When left untreated, infection of the endothelial cells that line blood vessels results in serious complications. These include damage to the brain, kidneys, heart, and other organs, nerve damage, and partial paralysis.

How Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is treated

When diagnosed early, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever treatment is very effective and involves the use of antibiotics like doxycycline. Treatment can vary depending on the age and medical history of the patient.

4) Scleroderma

Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks body tissues; this causes the skin and connective tissues to tighten and harden. The affected areas of skin also appear shiny.

Why scleroderma is dangerous

When left untreated, scleroderma can cause scarring of lung and kidney tissue, impairing their function. It may also cause scarring of heart tissue, raising the risk of congestive heart failure.

How scleroderma is treated

Drugs to suppress the immune system, medications that dilate blood vessels, and antibiotic ointments are among the most effective scleroderma treatments, helping control symptoms and lowering the risk of complications.

5) Impetigo

Impetigo is a highly contagious bacterial skin infection that is more common in children. It is characterized by red sores or blisters and tends to affect the face and hands but can appear on any part of the body.

Why impetigo is dangerous

Impetigo should be treated promptly, as a delay can allow the infection to spread to the lymph nodes and bloodstream. If the infection reaches blood vessels in the kidneys it can even be fatal.  

How impetigo is treated

Impetigo is treated with prescription antibiotic ointments and creams, but in severe cases doctors may also prescribe oral antibiotics.

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6) Eczema

Eczema is one of the most common of all skin rashes, affecting an estimated 30% of the US population. Although more common in children, it can affect individuals of any age group. The condition causes red and itchy skin rashes, from which a clear fluid seeps when scratched.

Why eczema is dangerous

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases regards eczema as a significant threat because of its high prevalence rate and the elevated risk of secondary bacterial, viral, and fungal infections.

How eczema is treated

Standard treatments for eczema include the use of moisturizers and topical corticosteroids, but doctors may also prescribe antihistamines and other medications if required.

7) Urticaria

Urticaria or hives is a common skin condition that usually develops as an allergic response to certain stimuli. The condition manifests in itchy, red lumps or wheals that can be extremely painful.

Why urticaria is dangerous

In most cases, urticaria does not pose a serious threat. However, when the rash appears around the nose, mouth, and lips or causes swelling of the tongue and throat, it can impair breathing.

How urticaria is treated

Identification and avoidance of allergens is the most effective strategy to prevent urticaria. When symptoms do surface, treatment can include the use of topical or oral antihistamines, as well as vasoconstrictors and bronchodilators to ease respiratory distress.

8) Ringworm

Ringworm is a common skin infection caused by fungi – not worms! The name, however, is reflective of its distinctive appearance – a circular, ring-like rash. The itchy rash can affect any area of skin on the body from head to toe.

Why ringworm is dangerous

Ringworm itself does not pose a serious risk, but it is highly contagious and does not resolve without treatment. If ignored, the condition becomes increasingly painful and puts one at risk of secondary bacterial infections.

How ringworm is treated

OTC antifungal creams, ointments, sprays, or powders are generally effective enough, but more persistent infections could require higher strength prescription medications.

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9) Mycosis fungoides

Mycosis fungoides is a type of blood cancer that generally affects the skin, resulting in itchy rashes, tumors, or lesions that tend to surface on the buttocks. Often mistaken for eczema or psoriasis, an accurate diagnosis can only be made through a biopsy.

Why mycosis fungoides is dangerous

In the early stages, the condition can be treated with medication or therapies that target just the skin. Once it progresses, however, it is rarely cured.

How mycosis fungoides is treated

Mycosis fungoides can be treated with corticosteroid and retinoid creams, phototherapy, and radiation in order to control the cancer and clear the rash.

10) Fifth disease

Fifth disease or “slapped cheek disease” is known for the bright red rash that appears on the cheeks of the affected individual. This painful rash can also spread to the upper arms, torso, and legs.

Why fifth disease is dangerous

Fifth disease can cause health complications like chronic anemia. Children and those with weakened immune function are at higher risk of serious complications from fifth disease.

How fifth disease is treated

The infection is typically self-limiting, so treatment is often supportive. Antipyretics, analgesics, and NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are some of the most commonly prescribed medications for fifth disease.

Skin symptoms – a word of caution  

Any sudden skin change is a cause for concern but there are some that might require an immediate trip to the doctor or urgent care. Changing moles, a white ‘halo’ around a mole, spots that bleed with minimal friction, unusual skin thickening or a lump, and lesions or sores that fail to heal within 3 weeks are often indicative of serious health conditions such as cancer and should never be ignored. In most cases it will likely be a false alarm, but one can never play it too safe as early diagnosis and treatment can make all the difference.

Guest author: Roselynn R. is a journalist and a writer by profession who has been in the business for a decade. She has been writing extensively on health and wellness related topics. She is a basketball player, a hiker and enjoys every activity that fuels her spirits. “Health is wealth” is her one motto of life that she lives by as well as advocate to every reader, who comes across her blogs. This article was reviewed for accuracy by a healthcare professional.