Chances are you’ve had at least one rash as an adult. And when you saw that rash, you probably experienced anything from mild concern to alarm. What’s causing this rash? Is it contagious? Should I see a doctor? Learn the symptoms of skin irritation that warrant a doctor visit so that the next time you notice a rash on your body, you can be confident in your decision of whether to seek help in treating your skin.
Your skin is a protective barrier for the rest of your body, a part of your body’s immune system. When that protection is threatened by an irritant or something your body is allergic to, your immune system reacts with a skin inflammation, called a rash or dermatitis. Quite often, dermatitis is caused by an allergy to something ordinary in your environment, as in the case of an allergic reaction to nickel in earrings, the most common form of dermatitis according to the National Institute of Health. Dermatitis can also be a signal that there is a problem somewhere else in your body, such as an allergic reaction to something you ate or a whole-body illness like shingles. A rash can manifest as red or discolored blotches, blisters, lesions (open sores), scaley or peeling skin, bumps, swellings, and leathery patches.
Most rashes are not dangerous, don’t last a long time, and are easily treatable. But there are some characteristics of rashes that should cause you to seek immediate medical attention or the longer, sustained treatment of a doctor in the case of skin conditions like psoriasis or skin cancer. 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.
When you notice your rash, it’s important to look for a few markers that you need to see a doctor. If your rash begins or blister, crust, ooze or turn into open sores, you could be suffering from an allergic reaction that requires medical attention. You should also seek help from a doctor if your rash becomes infected. The American Academy of Dermatology lists signs of an infected rash as yellow or green fluid, swelling, crusting, pain, and warmth in the area of the rash, or a red streak coming from the rash. The Mayo Health Clinic recommends seeking immediate medical attention if your rash is made up of dots that are reddish, purple, or blue. This can be a sign of a serious medical condition called immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) caused by not having enough platelets in your blood and resulting in bleeding under the 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.
The appearance of your rash could also indicate a skin condition that will need the prolonged care of a doctor. Psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea are a few of the conditions that usually need to be treated over a longer period of time. 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. If your rash has or develops any of these symptoms, contact one of the experienced dermatologists at Vanguard Dermatology so you can create an extended treatment plan.
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 your 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. Conversely, a rash that does not go away quickly should be evaluated by a healthcare professional. A long-lasting rash can be uncomfortable and a sign that your body needs help in its immune response.
A rash can appear anywhere on your body, from your scalp to the soles of your feet. One area that should cause you concern is around your eyes. To make sure you don’t risk damage to your eyesight from swelling, scratching, or infection, it is best to seek medical attention when you notice a rash around your eye. The skin around your eyes is particularly sensitive and important to protect. Rashes are often accompanied by swelling, which can result in your eye swelling shut. Rashes are also often itchy, and scratching can cause infection to the skin, which is especially dangerous around your eye. 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. This kind of rash could indicate an infection or allergic reaction that needs a doctor’s treatment.
Dermatitis will often be accompanied by other symptoms. 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 cause some of these co-occurring symptoms. Early treatment is key in the successful elimination of skin cancer. Don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your healthcare provider if you see a rash that has other skin cancer symptoms.
To ensure that you know the cause and best treatment for your rash, contact Vanguard Dermatology in the greater New York City area to set up an appointment. The experienced dermatologists at Vanguard can correctly diagnose your dermatitis and provide the care you need for relief and healing.