Home Disorders Dermatologic Disorders Rashes – Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment Information

Rashes – Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment Information

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Skin rashes

Many people attach the word “rash” to any area of skin that looks red and feels itchy. Specifically, a rash is a dermal phenomenon that affects certain areas of the skin and causes it to change its qualities, like color and texture. Rashes are not a condition that is strictly limited to certain symptoms and causes. Any reddening of the skin and changes in the way it feels and characterized most of the time by itching and inflammation, usually define rashes.

Some people mistakenly believe that uncontrollable scratching causes rashes. In reality, it is the rash that causes the skin to itch and provoke the scratching. Rashes may occur in localized regions of the skin, or they may be widespread all over the body. They can cause the skin to develop bumps, blisters, dryness, and wounds. Rashes can be a symptom of a disease or underlying conditions. They can vary in severity, duration, and in how they affect the body. There are many different types of rashes and these are, in turn, connected to several different causes. While rashes cover a very broad area of conditions, much is known of their nature and several simple treatments are available to help ease any undesirable symptoms and prevent them from spreading.

Various causes of rashes

Because of the variable nature of rashes, they can be caused by many different factors. Allergies to certain kinds of food can cause rashes to form in large areas of the skin. They also lead to swelling in different parts of the body. Rashes can also develop as an adverse side effect of certain vaccines, such as the varicella vaccine and the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. In addition to sunburn, exposure to the sun can also lead to sun rash, which is essentially an allergic response to the sunlight.

Excessive friction can cause rashes that exhibit skin chafing. Friction-induced rashes are typically experienced when wearing clothes that may contain irritant materials that rub constantly against the skin. Stress and anxiety lead to a notable hormonal imbalance that causes the skin to become overly sensitive and more prone to rashes. In addition, people who are stressed are more likely to roughly scratch their skin, even in the lightest of itches. Rashes are very common symptoms of various skin conditions, like eczema and different forms of dermatitis. Other conditions, like syphilis, certain autoimmune disorders, scarlet fever, and Lyme disease, are not usually known to cause rashes, but they may develop as a mild symptom.

Different types of rashes and their characteristics

There are various types of rashes that can develop. While most skin inflammations look similar and their symptoms are mostly identical, there are a few characteristics that tell them apart from each other and are often caused by specific conditions. There are five classes of dermatitis that lead to different kinds of rashes. Seborrheic dermatitis results in red, scaly patches of skin covering the whole of the top of one’s head as well as their ears. Atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, leads to weeping rashes, wherein liquid oozes out of the inflamed areas. Contact dermatitis rashes also weep and secrete liquid from any areas of skin that have come in contact with an irritant. Common natural irritants that cause these rashes are poison oak, poison ivy, and Balsam of Peru. Psoriasis rashes do not weep, but form large bumpy and scaly patches all over the body. Allergic purpura leads to small red dots that tend to look like small bruises. Chickenpox is one of the more well-known kind of inflammation and forms large itchy blisters that usually occur all over the face, chest, and back. Rubella rashes are similar to chickenpox, and manifest as red blotchy spots all over the body.

Diagnosing rashes

Diagnosing rashes can be difficult, because of the lack of a precise pathology. Doctors usually question the patients on issues related to their medical history, such as what kind of medications they may have taken and what environments they are regularly exposed to. The best way to diagnose dermal conditions is through a thorough physical examination. During the examination, doctors check the appearance and consistency of the rashes. They also note how they are distributed around the body, such as whether the rashes are confined to certain areas, or if they are widespread and occur in symmetrical patterns. A patch test exposes a patient’s skin to minute amounts of irritants to test for any allergies and monitor the skin’s reaction to different substances.


Rashes can be simply and effectively treated with various topical ointments and creams. Hydrocortisone is a corticosteroid that is a common ingredient in many of these creams. Oral histamines, such as hydroxyzine, diphenhydramine, and Cetirizine, can suppress itching. Any moisturizing lotions and creams, such as Polysporin, are also recommended. A few other topical ointments and medications, such as Lamisil, Lotrimin, and Mycatin, can be used to treat any fungus-induced rashes. These ointments and medications can all be purchased over the counter at any drug store.

Patients should also constantly keep their rashes clean and washed and wrap any oozing areas with dressing. If rash symptoms persist after trying these medications, however, patients should have a medical check-up immediately before the rashes worsen and spread, and in order to check if they may be a symptom of another more serious condition.