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Everyone has moles, sometimes 40 or more. Most people think of a mole as a dark brown spot, but moles have a wide range of appearance.
Moles can appear anywhere on the skin. They are usually brown in color but can be skin colored and various sizes and shapes.
Moles probably are determined before a person is born. Most appear during the first 20 years of life, although some may not appear until later. Sun exposure increases the number of moles, and they may darken. During the teen years and pregnancy, moles also get darker and larger and new ones may appear.
Each mole has its own growth pattern. At first, moles are flat and tan like a freckle, or they can be pink, brown or black in color. Over time, they usually enlarge and some develop hairs. As the years pass, moles can change slowly, becoming more raised and lighter in color. Some will not change at all. Some moles will slowly disappear, seeming to fade away. Others will become raised far from the skin.
They may develop a small “stalk” and eventually fall off or are rubbed off.
Moles known as “dysplastic” or “atypical” moles are larger than average (usually larger than a pencil eraser) and irregular in shape. They tend to have uneven color with dark brown centers and lighter, sometimes reddish, uneven border or black dots at edge. These moles often run in families.
People with lots of dark irregular moles may have a greater chance of developing skin cancer and should be seen regularly by a dermatologist to check for any changes that might indicate skin cancer. They should also learn to do regular self-examinations, looking for changes in the color, size or shape of their moles or the appearance of new moles.
Sunscreen and protective clothing should be used to shield moles from sun exposure.
Most procedures used to remove moles take only a short time and can be performed in the office. Sometimes a mole will recur after it is removed. If a mole has been removed and begins to reappear, you should return to the dermatologist.
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Acne is an inherited skin condition most commonly found in teenagers, although many adults in their 30’s, 40’s, and even 50’s suffer from acne outbreaks. Acne affects approximately 80% of the population. Acne cysts, pimples, whiteheads, and blackheads can damage a person’s skin as well as their self-esteem. Acne can progressively worsen if untreated, so the best time to treat acne is at the first sign of an outbreak. Control and prevention is the goal when treating acne to stop acne before it worsens which can lead to scarring.
Why do we get acne?
Acne is not caused by dirt. Testosterone, a hormone which is present in both males and females, increases during puberty. It stimulates the oil glands of the skin to enlarge, produce oil, and plug the pores. Whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples are present in teenage acne.
In females, early acne occurs before the first menstrual period. When acne is severe and forms deep “pus-filled” lumps, it is called cystic acne. This may be more common in males. Adult acne develops later in life and may be related to hormones, childbirth, menopause, or stopping the pill.
Basic care for acne:
Knowing your skin type helps you understand what ingredients work well with your skin, and most importantly makes your daily skin care routine quick and easy. A daily skin care regimen does not have to be complicated. A gentle daily cleanser is recommended to remove dirt in the skin and to keep it clean and refreshed. Lastly, a good lotion or cream should be used to keep skin moist, helping to prevent fine lines and wrinkles that begin to develop as we age.
Rosacea is a common but often misunderstood condition that is estimated to affect over 45 million people worldwide. It begins with flushing and redness on the central face and across the cheeks, nose, or forehead but can also affect the neck and chest.
Triggers that cause episodes of flushing and blushing play a part in the development of rosacea. Exposure to temperature extremes can cause the face to become flushed as well as strenuous exercise, heat from sunlight, severe sunburn, stress, anxiety, cold wind, moving to a warm or hot environment from a cold one such as heated shops and offices during the winter. There are also some foods and drinks that can trigger flushing, these include alcohol, foods and beverages containing caffeine (especially, hot tea and coffee), and spicy food.
Trigger avoidance can help reduce the symptoms but alone will not normally cause remission for all but mild cases. A diary should be kept to help identify and reduce triggers. It is important to have a gentle skin cleansing regimen using non-irritating cleansers. Protection from the sun is important and daily use of a sunscreen of at least SPF 15 containing a physical blocker such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide is advised. Oral and topical antibiotics are usually the first line of defense prescribed by doctors to relieve inflammation and some redness.
Recent advances in laser technology have allowed for safe and long lasting results using the V-beam laser.
Atopic dermatitis is a chronic (long-lasting) disease that affects the skin. The word “dermatitis” means inflammation of the skin. “Atopic” refers to diseases that tend to run in families, and often occur together. These diseases include asthma, hay fever and atopic dermatitis. In atopic dermatitis, the skin becomes extremely itchy causing redness, swelling, cracking, crusting, and scaling.
Atopic dermatitis most often affects infants and young children, but it can continue into adulthood or first show up later in life. In most cases, there are periods of time when the disease is worse. Many children with atopic dermatitis “grow out of it” as they get older, although their skin often remains dry and easily irritated. Weather changes can activate symptoms of atopic dermatitis at any time in the lives of people who have inherited the condition.
Eczema is a rash of the upper layers of the skin. The term “eczema” is applies to a range of ongoing skin rashes characterized by redness, swelling, itching and dryness, with possible crusting, flaking, blistering, cracking, oozing or bleeding. Areas of temporary skin discoloration are sometimes present.
Contact dermatitis is a localized rash or irritation of the skin caused by contact with a foreign substance. Only the upper layer of the skin is affected in contact dermatitis.
Inflammation is present in the outer layer of skin and the outer layer under the skin. Contact dermatitis takes days to fade away. Even then, the rash fades only if the skin no longer comes in contact with the allergy causing material. Contact dermatitis results in large, burning, and itchy rashes, and these can take anywhere from several days to weeks to heal. Chronic contact dermatitis can develop when the removal of the offending agent no longer provides expected relief.
Psoriasis is believed to be an immune mediated disease which affects the skin and joints. It commonly causes red scaly plaques to appear on the skin. The scaly patches caused by psoriasis, called psoriatic plaques or lesions, are areas of excessive skin production and inflammation. Skin rapidly accumulates at these sites and takes a silvery-white appearance. Plaques frequently occur on the skin of the elbows and knees, but can affect any area including the scalp and genitals.
Psoriasis is not contagious. It is a recurring condition which varies in severity from minor localized patches to complete body coverage. Fingernails and toenails are frequently affected. Psoriasis can also cause inflammation of the joints, which is known as psoriatic arthritis. The cause of psoriasis is not known, but it is believed to run in families.
Skin tags are small non cancerous tumors that form primarily in areas where the skin forms creases, such as the neck, armpits, and groin. They also occur on the face, usually on the eyelids. The surface of skin tags may be smooth or irregular in appearance. Often, they are raised from the surface of the skin on a fleshy stalk. Skin tags are harmless, although they are sometimes irritated by clothing or jewelry. Why and how skin tags form is not entirely known, but there are correlations with age and obesity. They are more common in people with diabetes and in pregnant women.
An infection of nail fungus occurs when fungi infect one or more of your nails. Nail fungus usually begins as a white or yellow spot under the tip of your fingernail or toenail. As the nail fungus spreads deeper into your nail, it may cause your nail to discolor, thicken and develop crumbling edges — an unsightly and potentially painful problem.
Infections of nail fungus account for about half of all nail disorders. These infections usually develop on nails continually exposed to warm, moist environments, such as sweaty shoes or shower floors. Nail fungus isn’t the same as athlete’s foot, which primarily affects the skin of the feet, but at times the two may coexist and can be caused by the same type of fungus.
An infection with nail fungus may be difficult to treat, and infections may recur. But medications are available to help clear up nail fungus permanently. Signs and symptoms
You may have a nail fungal infection if one or more of your nails are:
- Brittle, crumbly or ragged
- Distorted in shape
- Flat or dull, having lost luster and shine
- Yellow, green, brown or black in color, caused by debris building up under your nail
- Infected nails may also separate from the nail bed. You may even feel pain in your toes or fingertips and detect a slightly foul odor.
Nail fungus can be difficult to treat, and repeated infections are common. Over-the-counter antifungal nail creams and ointments are available, but they aren’t very effective. Fortunately, other treatments have been introduced during the last 10 years. Oral medication may sometimes be necessary.
A Cyst is a closed sac below the surface of the skin that has a lining that resembles the uppermost part of a hair follicle and fills with a fatty white, semi-solid material called sebum. Sebum is produced by sebaceous glands of the skin.
The scalp, ears, back, face, and upper arms, are common sites for sebaceous cysts, though they may occur anywhere on the body. Most cysts are smooth to the touch, vary in size, and are generally round in shape.
They are generally mobile masses that can consist of fibrous tissues and fluids, to a fatty, substance that resembles cottage cheese. Surgically, a cyst can usually be excised in its entirety. A completely removed cyst will not recur, though if someone a predisposition to cyst formation further cysts may develop in the same general area.
Warts are non-cancerous skin growths caused by a viral infection in the top layer of the skin. Warts are usually skin-colored and feel rough to the touch, but they can be dark, flat and smooth. The appearance of a wart depends on where it is growing.
Common warts – usually grow on the fingers, around the nails and on the backs of the hands.
Foot warts – are usually on the soles (plantar area) of the feet and are called plantar warts.
Flat warts – are often too numerous to treat with methods mentioned above. As a result, “peeling” methods using daily applications of topical treatments are often recommended. For some adults, minor office treatments or surgical treatments are sometimes necessary.
Sometimes it seems as if new warts appear as fast as old ones go away. This may happen because the old warts have shed virus into the surrounding skin before they were treated. In reality new “baby” warts are growing up around the original “mother” warts. The best way to limit this is to treat new warts as quickly as they develop so they have little time to shed virus into nearby skin. A check by your dermatologist can help assure the treated wart has resolved completely.
For adults and older children freezing is generally preferred. This treatment is not too painful and rarely results in scarring. However, repeat treatments at one to three week intervals are often necessary. Burning is another good alternative treatment.
There are some wart remedies available without a prescription. However, you might mistake another kind of skin growth for a wart, and end up treating something more serious as though it were a wart. If you have any questions about either the diagnosis or the best way to treat a wart, you should seek a dermatologist’s advice.
Many conditions and diseases, and improper hair care can result in excessive hair loss. While losing 50 to 100 hairs a day is normal, people who notice their hair shedding in large amounts after combing or brushing, or whose hair becomes thinner or falls out, should consult a dermatologist for proper diagnosis and treatment.
The most common cause of excessive hair loss is hereditary thinning or baldness.
Other causes of hair loss, some of which are temporary, include:
- Some cancer treatments, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapeutic medications;
- Alopecia areata, a type of hair loss that affects all ages, which causes hair to fall out in patches;
- Excessive or improper use of styling products, such as perms, dyes, gels, relaxers and sprays can cause weathering – or hair breakage;
- Hairstyles that pull on the hair, like ponytails and braids;
- Shampooing, combing, or brushing hair too much (100 strokes or more a day) or too hard, or pulling it out;
- One of at least 30 diseases, such as thyroid disease;
- Following childbirth, major surgery, a high fever or severe infection, or even the flu;
- Inadequate protein in the diet or eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia;
- Certain prescription drugs (including blood thinners, high-dose vitamin A and medicines for arthritis, depression, gout, heart problems and high blood pressure);
- Use of birth control pills (usually in women with an inherited tendency toward hair thinning) or a few months after discontinuation of oral contraceptives;
- Hormonal imbalances, especially in women; and
- Ringworm of the scalp, a contagious fungal infection most common in children.
Treatment of Hair Loss
- Topical and oral medications have been shown to help in the regrowth of hair or slow down hair loss.
- Hair loss caused by diseases such as thyroid disease can be reversed with treatment of the underlying disease.
- Topical or oral estrogen, or other hormones, are sometimes recommended for women experiencing hair loss.
- Hair transplantation is a permanent form of hair replacement using surgery that involves moving some existing scalp hair to bald or thinning parts.
Melasma is a skin condition presenting as brown patches on the face of adults. Both sides of the face are usually affected. The most common sites of involvement are the cheeks, bridge of nose, forehead, and upper lip. Melasma mostly occurs in women. Dark-skinned people, particularly Hispanics, Asians, Indians, people from the Middle East, and African Americans, tend to have melasma more than others.
What causes melasma?
The precise cause of melasma is unknown. People with a family history of melasma are more likely to develop it themselves. Changes in hormonal status may trigger melasma. It is commonly associated with pregnancy and sometimes called the “mask of pregnancy.” Birth control pills may also cause melasma, however, hormone replacement therapy used after menopause has not been shown to cause the condition. Sun exposure and very strong light from light bulbs contributes to melasma. Any irritation of the skin may cause an increase in melasma in dark-skinned. Because melasma is common, most patients can be diagnosed simply by a skin examination.
How is it treated?
While there is no cure for melasma, many treatments have been developed. Melasma may disappear after pregnancy, it may remain for many years, or a lifetime. Sunscreens are essential in the treatment of melasma. They should be broad spectrum, protecting against both UVA and UVB rays from the sun. A SPF 30 or higher should be selected. Sunscreens should be worn daily, whether or not it is sunny outside, or if you are outdoors or indoors. A significant amount of sun exposure is received while walking down the street, driving in cars, and sitting next to windows.
A variety of bleaching creams are available for the treatment of melasma. These creams do not “bleach” the skin, but rather, decrease the activity of these pigment-producing cells. Over-the-counter creams contain low concentrations of bleach. This is often effective for mild forms of melasma.
Until recently, there has been no effective laser treatment for melasma. The recent FDA approval of the Fraxel laser for treatment of melasma is a highly effective and safe procedure for all skin types and especially for those individuals who have tried other treatments such as topical bleaching agents and peels without success.