The skin is an all too often overlooked element of our overall health and wellbeing. It does amazing things for our body’s temperature, protects our internal body and fluids from the outside world, and allows us to touch and feel heat or texture, but unless something goes wrong, we can take it for granted. However, conditions such as cysts, acne, other growths or even skin cancers are often either preventable or easily treatable. Indeed, skin cancer, or skin melanoma, is preventable in 86% of cases. We’ve written blogposts on more specific issues such as sun protection before, but this blogpost will take a broader look at the challenges our skin can face, how to prevent them and what to do if you suspect you may have a problem with your skin.
What is the skin?
Skin mainly exists as a barrier between our internal body parts and outside factors, be that anything from simply air, to extreme temperatures, to dangerous chemicals. It has three distinct sections, known as the epidermis, the dermis and he hypodermis. The epidermis is what we see on the surface, creating the waterproof layer protecting our bodies from external properties and giving our skin its colour. A little further down is the dermis, which contains hair follicles, sweat glands and some tissue, meaning it’s very important for regulating our temperature. Below that and before our muscles and other tissues is the hypodermis, which is mainly made up of connective tissue and fat. Most of the conditions discussed here mainly affect the superficial, epidermis layer.
Blackheads, Pimples and Acne
Pimples and acne are usually associated with teenagers and a surge in hormones, but it is slightly more complex than that, and we can have a breakout at any age. Essentially, pimples and acne occur when our pores get blocked, either with our own oil or with products and dirt. This causes the pore and surrounding area to become infected, becoming inflamed and sometimes developing pus. While a pimple is generally thought of as an isolated or very small amount amount of blemishes over the face or body, acne tends to refer to the more serious medical condition, acne vulgaris, which involves many blocked pores all over the face, sometimes back and occasionally the chest as well. In extreme cases, a course of strong antibiotics is needed to treat acne, as it can be extremely painful.
For less sever cases of acne or pimples, there are over the counter creams which can help. Most of them contain small levels of benzoyl peroxide, which helps to dry out the spot and stop the bacteria from continuing to multiply. There are also cleansers which help prevent breakouts occurring, which do a similar thing in keeping the oil in your skin at a healthy level, as well as cleansing your pores of any dirt, dead skin cells or excess oils. It’s important to use these if you are prone to breakouts, as the more breakouts you have, the less robust and healthy your skin is, leaving it vulnerable to further outbreaks, ageing, and more serious skin conditions.
A skin rash can mean many different things, depending on a number of factors. If there are other signs and symptoms present, this can give a clue to an underlying disease or condition such as meningitis or glandular fever. The location, texture, size and duration of a rash can also help determine the cause and give a diagnosis. Rashes are often an allergic reaction to something and will clear up themselves in a couple of days, but if you are concerned about a particularly aggressive rash, or it has remained for more than a week, then put all your symptoms into the Isabel Symptom Checker and visit your dermatologist to discuss the results.
Cysts and Lipomas
Over recent years, cysts and lipomas have gained more attention in the media, but not for the reason you would think. Online videos of cysts, large pimples and lipomas being extracted have become quite popular, with some finding them strangely addictive. Sandra Lee AKA Dr Pimple Popper is perhaps the most famous of dermatologists to film her surgeries and place them on Youtube for everyone to see, and you can see a lipoma being removed in the video below if you have the stomach, with some interesting commentary on what a lipoma is and how important it is to remove the whole thing, in order to prevent it from coming back.
As you can see, Dr Sandra Lee’s purpose is not only for entertainment, but also to educate people on the importance of their skin, and the need to flag up anything that changes with our skin to keep it healthy.
Skin Cancer and Melanomas
Melanomas are mole-like growths which can occur anywhere on the skin, but most commonly appear on the arms and upper legs. Causes include skin exposure to harmful sun rays, and hereditary causes. If you notice a new mole, or an existing mole begins to change shape or size, it is vitally important that you get it checked out as soon as possible. Skin cancer itself is relatively easy to treat and has a 98% survival rate, but if untreated, the cancer can spread to other less treatable areas of the body. Those with a family history of melanoma, prolonged exposure to sun over years, pale skin, natural freckles and fair hair are at a higher risk of developing melanomas, so know your symptoms and check your skin regularly.
If you are concerned you may be experiencing any of the symptoms discussed in this blogpost, or want to know more about a skin condition, put your symptoms into the Isabel symptom checker a visit a health professional.