Skin

18 December 2008

What causes skin disease?

It is generally assumed that every skin problem is an allergy, a fungal infection or due to stress.

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It is generally assumed that every skin problem is an allergy, a fungal infection or due to stress.

Many rashes develop in people prone to allergies, but this still doesn't mean that an allergy has caused the current outbreak.

Other than athlete’s foot, fungal infection is not particularly common.

Stress will make most inflammatory skin conditions worse, but is rarely the cause of any specific disease.

Some conditions such as acne are obvious and other red, painful eruptions are clearly due to infection.

There are many red rashes that look similar to the layman and which arise suddenly “out of the blue”:

  • An itchy rash on the face is probably due to eczema.
  • In a male a rash in the groin is probably fungal.
  • Rashes confined to the feet, either between the toes or arising on one foot or in an asymmetrical pattern, are probably fungal.
  • If other members of the family are itching, you may have scabies.
  • If your very dry skin starts to itch and burn you probably have a superimposed eczema.
  • A rash that comes and goes and erupts in different areas of the skin each time is urticaria (nettle rash, hives).
  • Most itchy rashes can to some extent be relieved by the use of emollients. Ointments and creams penetrate the skin better when it is hydrated (moist).
  • Urticaria requires antihistamines by mouth.
  • For lesions that are crusty, cleaning gently with liquid paraffin will soften them and accelerate healing.

 

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Skin expert

Dr Suretha Kannenberg holds a degree in Medicine and a Masters in Dermatology from the University of Stellenbosch. She is employed as a consultant dermatologist by Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Academic Hospital, where she is involved in clinical duties and the training of medical students and dermatology residents. Her areas of interest and research include vitiligo, eczema and acne. She also performs limited private practice work in the Northern suburbs of Cape Town in general and cosmetic dermatology.

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