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All about rashes: the most common causes and treatment options

Got an itch? If you have a rash you can't identify, it's time to see your dermatologist.

By their spots you shall know them ... or will you?

When you've got a few unexplained bumps, or an itch that doesn't quit, it's natural to be a bit concerned. Skin rashes can be caused by anything from too much heat to dry weather to parasites. While a good dermatologist is always your first line of defense when you've got skin-related questions, it doesn't hurt to get familiar with some of the more common causes and treatments of rashes.

Heat rash

If you can’t take the heat, well, your skin might show it. A heat rash is caused by sweat glands that become occluded in hot weather. The result are small, red blisters that cover the skin in areas like the neck, chest, groin and elbow creases. If you have a heat rash, your first method of treatment is always to get cooler. Once your body has been cooled, over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream can help resolve the bumps.


If you’ve got dry, itchy skin that won’t quit, you might be suffering from eczema, a common condition that, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, affects up to three percent of adults and 10 to 20 percent of children 10 and under. Eczema causes irritated, scaly and itchy skin due to the body’s reaction to outside irritants. Since itching can cause infection, the primary treatment for eczema is to soothe the itch. Over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream might be used, but your dermatologist may prescribe other medications – including antibiotics – depending on your severity of symptoms.


If you have lupus, your skin will likely know it. According to Gardens Dermatology, lupus can affect the skin by causing a widespread rash on your back, a thick scaly patch on your face, sores on the mouth and nose and flare-ups that look and feel like a sunburn. If you suspect you have lupus, a dermatologist can help you diagnose the disease and prescribe a treatment plan. Treatment includes sun protection, products that are non-irritating and detection of lupus symptoms in other areas of the body.

Lichen planus

Lichen planus causes firm, shiny and reddish-purple bumps on the skin, some of which have a white line running through them. These bumps might appear anywhere on the skin, including the genitals, but most commonly on the wrists, lower back and ankles. According to the Mayo Clinic, lichen planus occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks cells of the skin or mucous membranes. Fortunately, the condition is not contagious. Your dermatologist may biopsy affected tissue to diagnose the condition, after which he or she will prescribe treatment, including corticosteroids, immune response medicine and antihistamines.

Pityriasis rosea

It’s hard to say, but common to have. This condition causes patches on the skin, including a large one, that, according to Gardens Dermatology, is referred to as the “mother patch.” Other patches are “daughter patches.” While the cause of pityriasis is still unclear, many believe it may be linked to viral infection. That said, the skin condition itself is not contagious. If you believe you have pityriasis rosea, be sure to see a dermatologist. Once diagnosed, the rash will likely resolve without treatment, but it may last six to eight weeks or longer. Gardens Dermatology warns that pregnant women who suspect pityriasis rosea should contact their doctor immediately.


It might look like a rash, but psoriasis is a buildup of rough skin that appears scaly and irritated. These patches can become inflamed and painful or itchy, and you’ll notice that you experience “flare-ups” regularly. The frequency and severity of flare-ups vary with each case of psoriasis, but topical medications can offer relief. Your dermatologist might also prescribe light therapy.

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