Skin Deep

Common Conditions and How to Avoid Them

By David Buice

You may not usually think of your skin as one of your bodily organs, but it is, and it plays many vital roles. Among others, the skin helps the body retain fluids to prevent dehydration, enables you to feel sensations, guards against infections by protecting against germs and bacteria, stabilizes body temperature, and helps your body synthesize vitamin D from sun exposure.

Common Skin Disorders

Like any other organ, the skin is susceptible to diseases caused by things that inflame, irritate, or clog your skin. Aside from skin cancer, the following are among the more common skin disorders, including some that are temporary and others that are more lasting.

Acne

This is a very common skin condition that causes pimples on the face, forehead, chest, shoulders, and upper back. Acne most commonly affects teenagers, and causes include stress, fluctuating hormone levels, high humidity, and the use of oily or greasy skincare products.

Eczema

Also known as atopic dermatitis, eczema most often develops in childhood but can appear in adults. It may cause rashes around the face, scalp, neck, elbows, ankles, or legs. There is no known cure for eczema, though sometimes it resolves on its own. Medications to relieve its symptoms are available.

Psoriasis

This is an autoimmune disorder, and typical symptoms include itchy patches of skin that have an unusual appearance. In people with white skin, psoriasis typically appears as areas of red or pink skin with white scales. It may appear as gray, violet, or dark brown patches for African Americans. It can be treated with various medications.

Rosacea

This fairly common skin disorder affects about 14 million Americans and is characterized by redness on the nose, chin, cheeks, and forehead. Over the years, the redness may become more noticeable, and small blood vessels may become visible. It appears more commonly in women than men, although it tends to be more severe in men. The cause of rosacea is unclear and is a subject of debate in the medical community. Genetics may play a role as a family history of rosacea increases the likelihood of suffering from the disorder.

Vitiligo

Pronounced vit-il-EYE-go, this disorder causes white patches to appear on the skin when the skin cells that produce melanin, the chemical that gives skin its color, are destroyed by the body’s immune system. Sometimes the patches widen and spread, but commonly they stay in the same place for years. There is no cure for vitiligo, and medical treatment often involves either restoring skin color through repigmentation or eliminating the remaining color through depigmentation.

Tips on Preventing Skin Disease

Some skin diseases are not preventable, especially those involving genetics and autoimmune disorders.

On the other hand, you can take steps to prevent contagious or infectious skin diseases. These include:

  • Avoid sharing things like eating utensils and cosmetics.

  • Stay hydrated. A tip on hydration from former quarterback Tom Brady: He drinks half his body weight in ounces of water every day. So, for example, if you weigh 150 pounds, that equates to 75 ounces of water daily.

  • Eat a nutritious diet including an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, poultry, and whole grains, with a minimum of fast foods.

  • Try to limit your contact with irritants and harsh chemicals.

  • Get seven to eight hours of sleep nightly.

  • Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water.

Sunscreen and Skin Cancer Prevention

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. The American Dermatology Association (ADA) estimates approximately 9,500 Americans are diagnosed with it every day. The ADA recommends wearing sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, and many dermatologists also recommend purchasing sunscreen that contains at least 7% zinc to help ward off the sun’s UV rays.

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