Different Types of Skin Disease

The skin can be affected by many different diseases. Some are minor, and others can be serious or even life threatening.


In some cases, changes in the color, feeling or texture of your skin can indicate a health problem. This may be due to infection, allergies or physical trauma.


Rashes are a common skin condition, but they can have many causes. Some are easy to diagnose and treat; others require medical attention.

The skin can become itchy, red, scaly or dry. Some rashes develop quickly, while others come and go over a few days.

Dermatitis is a common skin disease that causes inflammation of the skin, called rashes. It can occur anywhere on the body but is most common in areas where the skin is more sensitive, such as the face, hands and feet.

To treat rashes, use a topical medication that soothes the skin and eases the itchiness. Look for 1% hydrocortisone cream or ointment (Cortizone 10, others) that you can buy at a drugstore and apply it 1 to 2 times a day. Or try calamine lotion to relieve itching and discomfort.

If the rash is very itchy, your doctor might suggest an oral antihistamine to help control itching and reduce inflammation. Some medications, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can also help.

A doctor might also recommend a medication that changes how your immune system reacts to allergens. These medications, called immunomodulators, are used to treat certain conditions such as eczema and contact dermatitis.

Some medications may cause rashes when taken with sunlight or other sources of ultraviolet light. This is called photosensitivity and can happen with drugs such as lithium, corticosteroids, and anticoagulants.

Your health care provider might refer you to a specialist in the field of dermatology, or skin medicine. These doctors will provide an in-depth consultation and exam, review your medical history, and possibly perform a skin biopsy to determine the cause of the rash.

Seborrheic dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis (SD) is a type of skin disease that can affect people of all ages. It can cause red, scaly, greasy skin on the scalp and other parts of the body that have oil glands. It can last a long time, or go away and come back again. It may be caused by hormones or a fungus called malassezia.

It can also be triggered by illness, cold weather, stress, and changes in your diet. It is more common in men than women, and it can run in families.

Your doctor will check your symptoms and do a physical exam of your skin. If your doctor thinks you have seborrheic dermatitis, he or she might recommend an antifungal medicine to kill the fungus that is causing the problem. Some antifungal medications can be taken by mouth or applied directly to the skin.

Medications to treat seborrheic dermatitis include corticosteroid creams or ointments, which can help reduce itching and redness. Calcineurin inhibitors, like pimecrolimus or tacrolimus, are also used to treat it.

Another treatment is psoralen, which can be taken by mouth or applied directly to your skin. It can also be used in combination with light therapy to fight the bacteria that causes your symptoms.

It is usually easy to diagnose seborrheic dermatitis. The condition is characterized by itchy, red patches of skin that have yellow greasy scales and crusty flakes on the scalp or elsewhere on your body. It can look similar to a number of other skin conditions, including psoriasis.


Hives, formally known as urticaria, are itchy red or skin-colored bumps that often appear as welts and have defined edges. They’re a reaction to something triggering the body’s allergic response, like food, medications, insect stings or chemicals.

A doctor can help figure out what’s causing hives and how to treat them. They will examine the rash, ask questions and perform skin tests to determine the cause.

Typically, doctors prescribe antihistamines, which help ease symptoms by reducing the production of histamine. They may also recommend topical creams that numb nerve endings and relieve itching.

Other treatments include steroid medicines, such as prednisone. These medications can also be used to reduce swelling, especially in the eyes, mouth, throat and hands and feet.

If the hives cause a severe allergic reaction, such as anaphylaxis, doctors will administer epinephrine autoinjectors and give you training on how to use them. This treatment will stop the reaction and prevent the hives from happening again.

Some people develop chronic hives (also called chronic spontaneous urticaria) that don’t have a trigger or cause. These are difficult to treat but don’t have to be life-threatening.

Medications that can help manage the symptoms of chronic hives include antihistamines, steroids and immunotherapy, or a treatment that tries to regulate your immune system by blocking certain substances in your body. These therapies can take a while to work, so you’ll want to be patient as your chronic hives get better.

You’ll need to keep a record of what you eat and what you put on your skin, and be sure to let your doctor know if you are taking any other medications or have any other health problems. Your allergist will likely also conduct a skin-prick test to identify any triggers that may be causing the hives.


Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes red, itchy, scaly patches of skin. It can affect any area of the body, but it usually starts between ages 15 and 35 and is more common in adults.

The cause of psoriasis isn’t known, but it’s thought to be caused by an overactive immune system. This overactive immune system speed up the process that normally takes skin cells to mature and then die and flake off of the surface of the skin in 3 to 4 weeks.

With psoriasis, these cells grow much faster, in less than three days. Instead of shedding, they pile up on the surface of the skin, forming plaques and scaly patches called scales.

These patches can be thick, hard, or very smooth, depending on the type of psoriasis. The most common is plaque psoriasis.

In this form, thick, red patches of skin covered with flaky, silvery-white scales develop on the scalp, trunk, and limbs. Nails may also be affected.

Other types include guttate psoriasis and pustular psoriasis. Pustular psoriasis is characterized by pus-filled bumps surrounded by red skin. It can also cover a large part of the body, and it’s triggered by medications, infections, or certain chemicals.

Treatment for psoriasis aims to stop the overactive immune system from producing skin cells that grow so quickly and to help remove the scaly patches of skin. Your health care provider will recommend a combination of different treatments to best control your psoriasis. Topical creams and ointments, light therapy (phototherapy), or oral or injected medications are some of the most common ways to treat psoriasis.

Autoimmune and blistering skin diseases

Occasionally, your immune system can attack the healthy cells in your skin and mucous membranes, turning them into sores, blisters, or rashes. This is called an autoimmune disease, and it occurs when your body’s immune system mistakes the proteins in these areas for foreign invaders like bacteria, viruses, or fungi.

In most cases, autoimmune diseases can affect both men and women. However, the condition is more common in women than men [3, 4, 5, 6, 7].

Autoimmune blistering skin diseases are a group of rare conditions that occur when your immune system mistakenly attacks the proteins needed for the outer (epidermis) and inner (dermis) layers of your skin to stick together. These blisters are often more widespread than blisters caused by minor burns, friction, or injuries, and they heal more slowly.

A diagnosis of an autoimmune blistering disease is made by finding autoantibodies directed against structural proteins in the skin and adjacent mucous membranes. These autoantibodies are present in most autoimmune blistering diseases, although the specific target antigens vary between the different diseases.

Diagnosis is usually based on clinical signs of a particular disease and/or the detection of tissue-bound or circulating autoantibodies through direct immunofluorescence, indirect immunofluorescence, and serologic testing. If the target of circulating antibodies associated with a particular AIBD is known, antigen-specific testing, such as ELISA, immunoblotting, and immunohistochemistry, may also be used.

Treatment for these rare conditions is tailored to each patient’s needs and can include medications that suppress your immune system, such as oral steroids. Oral steroids are often combined with immunosuppressive drugs. Oral corticosteroids, like prednisone, have been shown to be effective in the treatment of pemphigus and bullous pemphigoid.