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Common Skin Conditions at a Glance

Acne Comparison

The Skinny on Skin: Your skin works hard all the time. The body’s largest organ, it helps shield you against germs, control your body temperature, and sense the outside world. Healthy skin also lets you put your best face forward.

rash face

Skin S.O.S.: When something clogs, irritates, or inflames your skin, it can’t do its job properly. Symptoms such as redness, itching, and a rash may develop, and your appearance may suffer. Here’s a look at some common skin problems.


Acne: Acne causes plugged pores (blackheads or whiteheads), pimples, and deeper lumps on the face or upper body. Most teens have at least an occasional pimple, and more than 40 percent have acne that’s bad enough to need treatment. Left untreated, acne may take years to clear up, sometimes lasting into the late twenties, thirties, or beyond.


Rosacea: An estimated 16 million Americans suffer from rosacea. The first signs usually appear between ages 30 and 60. It typically starts with redness that comes and goes on the cheeks, nose, forehead, or chin. As time goes on, the disorder may cause bumps or pimples; blood vessels visible as tiny red lines; or a swollen, bumpy nose.


Eczema/Atopic Dermatitis: Eczema is a general term for itchy, swollen, irritated skin. One form is atopic dermatitis, a long-lasting skin disorder that usually starts before age five. Atopic dermatitis causes very itchy patches of skin. A rash may appear there after scratching. The skin may also become dry, cracked, bleeding, blistery, or oozing.

allergic contact dermatitis

Allergic Contact Dermatitis: Some rashes develop after the skin is touched by an allergy-causing substance. The best-known example is the red, itchy, blistery rash caused by poison ivy. Other substances that can set off allergic skin reactions in sensitive individuals include nickel, perfumes, dyes, latex, and cosmetics.

irritant contact dermatitis

Irritant Contact Dermatitis: Another group of rashes develop after the skin comes into contact with a damaging substance. The resulting rash often resembles a burn and feels more painful than itchy. Among the substances that may cause this type of skin irritation are soaps, detergents, solvents, and industrial chemicals. You may need to “play detective” to find the cause.


Psoriasis: Psoriasis occurs when the skin grows new cells too quickly. Because the body is unable to shed all the excess skin cells, they pile up on the skin’s surface. This may lead to raised patches of thick, scaly skin that is white, silvery or red. Such patches, called plaques, generally are found on the elbows, knees, scalp or lower back.

pityriasis rosea

Pityriasis Rosea: This rash is common in teens and young adults. Although believed to be caused by a virus, it isn’t highly contagious. Often, it starts with a single oval, scaly spot, called the herald patch. A week or two later, a number of smaller spots crop up. They sometimes form a distinctive “Christmas tree” pattern on the back.


Rash Action: Many skin conditions look very similar. If you develop a rash or other skin problem, see your doctor for an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment. Your skin takes great care of you, so it’s only fair to return the favor.

Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 4/23/2010
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