Rash is a general, nonspecific term that describes any visible skin outbreak. Rashes are very common in all ages, from infants to seniors, and nearly everyone will have some type of rash at some point in their life. There are a wide variety of medical diagnoses for skin rashes and many different causes. It is not possible to fully cover every type of rash in such an article. Therefore, special mention has been given to some of the most common types of rashes. A dermatologist is a medical provider who specializes in diseases of the skin and may need to be consulted for rashes that are difficult to diagnose and treat.
While there are many different types, rashes may basically be divided into two types: infectious or noninfectious.
Noninfectious rashes include eczema, contact dermatitis, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, drug eruptions, rosacea, hives (urticaria), dry skin (xerosis), and allergic dermatitis. Many noninfectious rashes are typically treated with cortisone (steroid) creams and/or pills.
Infection-associated rashes such as ringworm (Tinea), impetigo, Staphylococcus, scabies, herpes, chickenpox, and shingles are treated by treating the underlying cause. Infectious agents that can cause a rash include viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites.
Determining the specific cause of rash usually requires a description of the lesion, shape, arrangement, distribution, duration, symptoms, and history. All of these factors are important in identifying the correct diagnosis.
The reported history will help characterize the duration, onset, relationship to various environmental factors, skin symptoms (such as itching and pain), and constitutional symptoms such as fever, headache, and chills. Based on the health-care provider's initial impression of a rash, treatment may be started. The treatment may need to be modified pending various laboratory and special skin examinations.
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