When a rash appears, the first reaction can be to buy some over-the-counter cream and wait for it to disappear. A skin rash isn’t an actual diagnosis. It simply refers to inflammation or discoloration of the skin that causes symptoms such as itchiness, redness or swelling. And while some rashes are easy to get rid of, others can be persistent and difficult to treat. Skin rashes can be caused by a variety of things from allergies to infections to diseases.
Most rashes are not dangerous, don’t last long and are easily treatable. But there are some characteristics of rashes that should cause you to seek medical treatment. A doctor can diagnose the rash and recommend treatments like over-the-counter creams and antihistamines, prescribe medications that can counter an allergic reaction or create a treatment plan for longer-lasting cases of dermatitis. Dermatitis is a general term for conditions that cause inflammation of the skin.
The length of time it takes for your rash to develop and how long it remains on your skin can be a reason to see the doctor. A rash that appears suddenly and spreads quickly should receive immediate medical attention. It might indicate that an allergic reaction could worsen and develop other symptoms. A rash that does not go away quickly should be evaluated by a physician.
The appearance of your rash could indicate a skin condition that will need treatment by a doctor. Psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea are a few conditions that usually need to be treated over a longer period. Psoriasis symptoms include raised red patches covered with a silvery white buildup of dead skin cells that are usually on the scalp, knees, elbows, and lower back. An eczema rash is characterized by dry, red, itchy, and flaking skin. Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that usually manifests as flushing, redness, bumps, and sensitivity on facial skin.
The shape of your rash might also need a doctor’s care. One common example of this is ringworm, a contagious fungal infection marked by raised bumps in the shape of a ring on the skin.
If your rash begins to blister, crust, ooze or turns into open sores, you could be suffering from an allergic reaction that requires medical attention. You should also seek medical help if your rash becomes infected. The American Academy of Dermatology lists signs of an infected rash as yellow or green fluid, swelling, crusting, pain, warmth in the rash area, or a red streak coming from the rash.
A rash made up of dots that are reddish, purple, or blue requires immediate medical attention as it can be a sign of a serious medical condition called immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP). This is caused by not having enough platelets in your blood and results in bleeding under the skin.
While a rash can appear anywhere on your body, rashes around the eyes need medical attention to make sure you don’t risk damage to your eyesight from swelling, scratching, or infection. In addition to rashes on your face, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends seeking medical treatment if you have a blistering rash in multiple areas of your mouth or on/around your genitals. Another rash location that should prompt you to make an appointment with your doctor is a rash that is all over your body.
If your rash occurs with crust, oozing or pus, pain in the affected area, fever, swelling in other parts of the body, dizziness, trouble breathing, vomiting, or a stiff neck, you need to see your doctor quickly. These can be signs of a more serious illness. Skin cancer can also cause some of these co-occurring symptoms.
Some things that can cause a rash include contact with something you’re allergic to, food or drug allergies, viruses, bug bites or fungus and bacteria. Depending on the cause, the appearance of the rash can vary. Some rashes are dry and itchy, while others are blotchy or form large hives. Over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream will usually ease symptoms of rashes caused by allergies, such as poison ivy or poison oak but they can require further medical attention.
Rashes are some of the most annoying symptoms we deal with. A rash that is highly irritating or simply doesn’t go away, needs to be seen by a healthcare provider such as a family practitioner or dermatologist sooner rather than later. West Tennessee Healthcare can help. To find a provider, click here.