Skin Afflictions

You may think face and hand creams are mainly for women, but it’s just as important for men to take care of their skin. During the depths of winter, carry moisturizing cream in your truck and use it to prevent dry skin, which can itch, crack and bleed. Also make sure you use products with a Sun Protection Factor of 15 or higher because your skin is still exposed to harmful rays in the winter, even through windows.

It’s just as important to address problems more serious than dryness because skin is your body’s most important defense against injury and bacteria. Skin also regulates body temperature, and a vast network of blood vessels in the skin provides oxygen and nutrients to nerves, glands, nails and hair.

Though some skin conditions have unknown causes or no cure, the best general maintenance for your skin is eating right, staying hydrated, avoiding the sun and keeping your skin moisturized. Some conditions are responsive to medication or other treatment:

ECZEMA is a chronic skin disease characterized by dry, red, extremely itchy patches. Its cause is unknown. There is no cure, but the symptoms can be managed with prescription and over-the-counter topical creams.

ACNE, which plagues some adults, can be treated with prescription gels and ointments. For patients with moderate to severe acne, the doctor often prescribes an oral antibiotic.

ROSACEA causes redness on the cheeks, nose, chin and forehead. The condition affects an estimated 14 million Americans – most without knowing what it is. Although the cause is unknown, the problem may be aggravated by stress, infection, vitamin deficiencies and glandular upset. Doctors often prescribe a topical antibiotic. The dilated blood vessels can be closed off with a needle, a laser or surgery.

PSORIASIS typically results in patches of thick, red skin covered with silvery scales that usually itch or feel sore. They most often occur on the elbows, knees, other parts of the legs, scalp, lower back, face, palms and soles, but they can occur anywhere. Psoriasis is caused by the overproduction of skin cells. A doctor can prescribe ointments that often help stop or reverse the spread. Exposure of the patches to sunlight also helps.

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DERMATITIS refers to any skin inflammation. It’s commonly an allergic reaction that produces an itchy rash that blisters, oozes and crusts. Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic condition, usually of the scalp, that causes red skin covered by yellowish, greasy-appearing scales. Scalp treatments include special over-the-counter and prescription shampoos.

SKIN INFECTIONS are common and include fungal, viral, bacterial and other infections. Among these are athlete’s foot, herpes, warts, scabies, ringworm and hives. Treatments vary widely.

Skin cancer types range from relatively benign to potentially fatal. This ABCD guide can help you differentiate harmless marks from the important signs of melanoma and other skin cancers. Use a mirror to check hard-to-see places, such as behind your ears, on your back and on the backs of your legs.

ASYMMETRY: One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
BORDER: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched or blurred.
COLOR: The color has different shades of brown or black, sometimes with patches of red or white.
DIAMETER: The area is larger than 6 millimeters, about the size of a pencil eraser.