Treating common skin conditions

There are many skin conditions that affect humans and they vary in symptoms and severity, from person to person. Some can be temporary or life long. Some may cause pain, while others don’t. They can be genetic or caused by situational factors.

Here’s a short guide to some of the most common skin conditions, and how to treat them.

Atopic eczema (dermatitis)
Dermatitis is the most common form of eczema and causes your skin to become itchy, red, dry and cracked. Scratching can leave open wounds that become very painful.

It’s a long-term condition but can improve over time. Treatments typically include topical steroids and non-scented moisturisers.

Cold sores
These small blisters on the lips and around the mouth are caused by the herpes simplex virus. You might notice a tingling, itching or burning sensation around your mouth before one arises. Cold sores present as small fluid-filled sores on the edge of your lower lip.

Antiviral creams are available over the counter but cold sores usually clear up without treatment within seven to 10 days. There’s no permanent cure and they may return.

Hives are a type of raised, itchy rash, also known as urticaria (or weals, welts and nettle rash). Hives can be caused by an allergic reaction, stress, illness or even tight-fitting clothing.

In most cases, hives only last a few days and get better on their own. Antihistamines can help relieve symptoms and are available over the counter. See your GP if your hives don’t go away within 48 hours.

Psoriasis presents as flaky red patches of skin covered in silvery scales. It typically appears on elbows, knees and the lower back. It can be itchy or sore.

It can vary in severity and flare ups are common. For some, it’s a minor irritation while for others it affects their quality of life.

If you suspect you have psoriasis, a trip to the doctor is in order. He or she may refer you to a skin specialist or dermatologist. Treatment can involve creams, light (phototherapy) and medication (taken orally or by injection).

Less ‘worm’ and more of a contagious fungal infection, ringworm causes a red or silvery scaly rash in the shape of a ring. It can appear almost anywhere on the body, typically on arms and legs.

You can treat ringworm with antifungal creams, powders or tablets, available over the counter.

Before you begin self-treatment, you should confirm that it is ringworm with a doctor.

Caused by tiny mites that borrow into the skin, scabies’ main symptoms are a rash of small red spots and intense itching that gets worse at night. 

It’s not very serious but you will need to see a doctor to obtain a special cream, designed to kill the scabies mites.

Vitiligo is a long term, non-serious condition that causes pale white patches on the skin. These patches vary in size and shape and can occur anywhere on the body.

Vitiligo is more noticeable on areas that are exposed to sunlight, such as face, hands and on tanned skin. It can also make your hair go white if the scalp is affected.

The main aim of treatment is to improve your skin’s appearance, and includes:

  • coloured creams to disguise the patches
  • steroid creams
  • phototherapy (light therapy) .


Warts and verrucas
Warts are harmless lumps that can appear anywhere, but usually affect the hands and feet. Verrucas are warts on the feet.

Warts usually clear up on their own, but you might decide to remove one if it’s painful, or if it causes discomfort or embarrassment.

These treatments may include:

  • salicylic acid
  • freezing off the wart (cryotherapy)
  • duct tape
  • other chemical treatments as prescribed by a doctor.


A word on itching
General itching can affect any part of the body. Mild itching is common but can become severe and frustrating to live with. To prevent your itch from becoming worse, it’s important to:

  • pat or tap the area, rather than scratch it
  • use a damp compress to cool the area
  • avoid bathing in hot water; use lukewarm or cool water
  • avoid using perfumed bathroom products
  • use a moisturiser if your skin is dry or flaky
  • avoid clothes that cause irritation to the skin, such as wool or synthetic fabrics.


Most of the time, skin conditions are minor but occasionally they can indicate a more serious problem. Antihistamines and steroid creams are good options for relieving symptoms caused by many skin conditions.

If you experience any of these skin conditions, it’s best to contact a doctor.

Have you experienced any of these skin conditions? What have you done to treat them?

Related articles:
Foot problems and how to fix them
Skin changes you should know about
The skin mistake I made

Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Written by Amelia Theodorakis

A writer and communications specialist with eight years’ in startups, SMEs, not-for-profits and corporates. Interests and expertise in gender studies, history, finance, banking, human interest, literature and poetry.

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