What is a skin rash?
A rash is an area of skin which is different from normal skin. Rashes are generally defined as any change in the color or texture of the skin. A skin rash can have many features which include:
Redness: The intensity of the color is variable and may vary from bright red to dark purple
Itch: Not all rashes are itchy. The itchiness may be intense in some rashes (chicken pox).
Swelling: Some rashes are associated with swelling of the skin. The swelling is usually due to collection of some fluid.
Pain: Some rashes may be painless and some are tender. Painful rashes usually feel warm to touch
Dryness: In some cases, the area of skin affected is dry and sensitive. Cracking, flaking and peeling of the skin is common in rashes which are from infections.
The skin lesions which appear as a rash include:
Macules:The macule is the simplest skin lesion. It is flat and can only be seen due its color change but one can not feel it. The macule is noted by a change in color of the skin. It may be brown, blue, red or exhibit a lighter discoloration of the skin. The color of the lesion is one way in which a diagnosis is made.
Papules: These small solid rounded bumps rising from the skin that are each usually less than 1 centimeter in diameter. Papules may open up when they are scratched. They do have a tendency to become crusty and infected. The term "papule" is derived from Latin from "papula," a pimple. Dermatologists (and other physicians) call any small solid circumscribed bump in the skin a papule, as opposed to a vesicle which contains fluid or a macule which is flat and even with the surrounding skin.
Nodules are solid, raised bumps on the skin, greater than 10 millimeters in diameter.
Pustules are small, inflamed, pus-filled, blister-like lesions on the skin surface. They may vary in number and are common in acne. They can occur anywhere on the body, but are most commonly seen on the face, shoulders, back, and over the chest. They also have a great propensity to occur in areas of increased sweating such as the groin and armpit. Pustules may be a sign of a bacterial infection.
Vesicles: Vesicles are small blisters, most often on the skin. Vesicles also can occur on the lips and the inside of mouth. Herpes simplex is characterized by the production of painful vesicles.
Almost everyone experiences some type of skin rash during their life time. Some rashes are only temporary and resolve on their own. In the majority of cases, rashes are not serious; but sometimes rashes can indicate a life-threatening condition. When the rash is not resolving or is painful, it is important to see a physician for the correct diagnosis and treatment.