Skin Problems and What They Look Like

Herpes Zoster

Do you have skin problems?

Is your skin itching, breaking out, covered in a rash, or playing host to strange spots? Skin inflammation, changes in texture or color, and spots may be the result of infection, a chronic skin condition, or contact with an allergen or irritant. While having reported earlier on these topics you can easier recognize the common adult skin problems with this picture library from WebMd.

Shingles (herpes zoster)
Shingles starts with burning, tingling, or very sensitive skin. A rash of raised dots develops into painful blisters that last about two weeks. Shingles often occurs on the trunk and buttocks, but can appear anywhere. Most people recover, but pain, numbness, and itching linger for many — and may last for months, years, or the rest of their lives. Treatment with antiviral drugs like aciclovir  may reduce symptoms if taken at start of symptoms. Steroids and antidepressants are sometimes used to control pain.

Hives (urticaria)
Hives, a common allergic reaction that looks like welts, are often itchy, stinging, or burning. They may appear anywhere and last minutes or days. Severe hives can cause difficult breathing (get immediate medical attention if this occurs). Medications, foods, or food additives, temperature extremes, and infections like strep throat can cause hives. Removing the trigger often resolves the hives in days or weeks. Antihistamines can provide quick relief preferably taken orally. Steroids applied locally or prescribed orally may be indicated as well.

A non-contagious rash of thick red plaques covered with silvery scales, psoriasis usually affects the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back. The rash can heal and recur throughout life. The cause of psoriasis is unknown, but skin inflammation may be triggering new skin cells to develop too quickly. Treatments include steroid or retinoid creams, light therapy, and medications.


Eczema describes several non-contagious conditions where skin is inflamed, red, dry, and itchy. Stress, irritants (like soaps), allergens, and climate can trigger flare-ups though they are not eczema’s cause, which is unknown. In adults, eczema often occurs on the elbows and hands, and in “bending” areas, such as inside the elbows. Treatments include cortisone creams, pills, shots, antibiotics, antihistamines, or phototherapy.


Also called Acne rosacea is often beginning as a tendency to flush easily, rosacea causes redness on the nose, chin, cheeks, forehead, even in the eyes. The redness may intensify over time, taking on a ruddy appearance. If left untreated, bumps and pus-filled pimples can develop, with the nose and oil glands becoming bulbous. Rosacea treatment includes medications (antibiotic cream), as well as surgery to remove blood vessels or correct nose disfigurement.

The bulbous nose is often associated with alcoholism, yet there is no direct relation since Rosacea can occur at the latter stages of life without alcohol involved.

Rash from Poisonous Plants
Contact with sap from poison ivy and its relatives of which we have a few on St. Maarten causes a rash in most people. It begins with redness and swelling at the contact site, then becomes intensely itchy. Blistering appears within hours or a few days. The typical rash is arranged as a red line on an exposed area, caused by the plant dragging across the skin. The rash usually lasts up to two weeks.

These rashes in the begin stages are sometimes mistakenly diagnosed as Hives (Urticaria) until the blisters appear.

Not everyone has such an extensive reaction to Poison Ivy and sometimes a mere itch with a light redness lasting a couple of hours is all some people experience.

Razor Bumps
Razor bumps are tiny, irritated bumps that develop after shaving. The sharp edge of closely shaven hair can curl back and grow into the skin, causing irritation and pimples, and even scarring. To minimize razor bumps, take a hot shower before shaving, shave in the direction of hair growth, and don’t stretch the skin while shaving. Use a single blade. Rinse with cold water, then apply moisturizer.

Don’t use electrical shavers since they have the tendency to pull the hairs for a closer shave.

Skin tags
A skin tag is a small flap of flesh-colored or slightly darker tissue that hangs off the skin by a connecting stalk. Usually found on the neck, chest, back, armpits, under the breasts, or in the groin area, skin tags are not dangerous and usually don’t cause pain unless they become irritated by clothing or nearby skin rubbing against them. A doctor can remove a skin tag by cutting, freezing, or burning it off.

Removal of skin tags is only a temporary solution and under most circumstances will return.

At the heart of acne lies the pimple — a plug of fat, skin, and keratin. When open, the plug is called a blackhead, closed, a whitehead. Often seen on the face, chest, and back, acne is caused by many things, including hormones. To help control it, keep oily areas clean and don’t squeeze pimples (it may cause infection and scars). Only three medications are proven effective for acne treatment: benzoyl peroxide, retinoids, and antibiotics.


Athlete’s Foot
A fungal infection that can cause peeling, redness, itching, burning, and sometimes blisters and sores, athlete’s foot is mildly contagious, passed by direct contact or by walking barefoot in areas such as locker rooms, or near pools. The fungi then grow in shoes, especially tight ones without air circulation. It’s usually treated with topical antifungal creams and lotions or oral medications for more severe cases.



Usually brown or black, moles can be anywhere on the body, alone or in groups, and generally appear before age 20. Some moles (not all) change slowly over the years, becoming raised, developing hair, and/or changing color. While most are non-cancerous, some moles have a higher risk of becoming cancerous. Have a dermatologist evaluate moles that change, have irregular borders, unusual or uneven color, bleed, or itch.


Age or liver spots (lentigines)
These pesky brown spots are not really caused by aging, though they do multiply as you age. They’re the result of sun exposure, which is why they tend to appear on areas that get a lot of sun, such as the face, hands, and chest. Bleaching creams, acid peels, and light-based treatments may lessen their appearance.

To rule out serious skin conditions such as melanoma, see a dermatologist for proper identification.

Melasma (Pregnancy Mask)
Melasma (or chloasma) is characterized by tan or brown patches on the cheeks, nose, forehead, and chin. Although usually called the “pregnancy mask,” but it can also happen when other factors raise the estrogen level like taking birthcontrol pills. Melasma may go away after pregnancy but, if it persists, can be treated with prescription creams and over-the-counter products. Skin of color is even more sensitive for uneven pigmentation sometimes due to irritants in facial cosmetics.

Use a sunscreen at all times if you have melasma, as sunlight worsens the condition.

Cold sores (fever blisters)
Small, painful, fluid-filled blisters on the mouth or nose, cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus. Lasting about seven to 10 days, cold sores are contagious until completely crusted over.

Triggers can include fever, too much sun, stress, or menstruation. Antiviral pills or creams can be used as treatment, but call your doctor if sores contain pus, you have a fever greater than 100.5°, or if your eyes become irritated.

Caused by contact with the contagious human papillomavirus, warts can spread from person to person or via contact with something used by a person with the virus. You can prevent spreading warts by not picking them, covering them with bandages, and keeping them dry. In most cases, warts are harmless, painless, and go away on their own. If they persist, treatments include freezing, surgery, lasers, and chemicals.