Acne is the term for the blocked pores (blackheads and whiteheads), pimples, and deeper lumps (cysts or nodules) that can appear typically on the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders and upper arms. Seventeen million Americans currently have acne, making it the most common skin disease in the country. While it affects mostly teenagers, and almost all teenagers have some form of acne, adults of any age can have it. Acne is not life-threatening, but it can cause physical disfigurement (scarring) and emotional distress.
Treatment for acne varies depending on the type and severity of lesions, as well as the patient's skin type, age and lifestyle. Options include:
Actinic keratoses (AKs) are lesions on the surface layer of the skin (epidermis) caused by chronic exposure to sunlight, particularly ultraviolet light. AKs typically manifest as rough or scaly skin, bumps, mottled patterns and cutaneous horns. They may appear anywhere on the skin surface exposed to sunlight, but common areas include the face (including ears and lips), neck, arms and hands. Lesions range in size from a pinpoint to several centimeters in diameter and may be yellow, brown, red or violet, smooth, wrinkled or furrowed.
Actinic keratoses can signal the onset of skin cancer; they can become squamous cell carcinomas, the second-most common form of epidermal skin cancer. Depending on a number of factors such as the size, location and severity of lesions, as well as the patient’s age, health, medical history, occupation, expectations and preferences, treatment for AKs may take the form of traditional surgical excision, cryosurgery (freezing), curettage (scraping), topical medications, laser treatment, chemical peels, dermabrasion and pulsed light therapy. Routine re-examinations every few months and limitation of exposure to direct sunlight are recommended.
Age spots, also called liver spots, are flat brown patches on the skin that have darkened in color (“pigmented”) after exposure to sunlight or ultraviolet light. They are commonly seen in people over the age of 40 on areas of skin that are frequently exposed to sunlight, such as the hands, shoulders, forearms, face and forehead. Age spots may look unattractive, but age spots are painless and harmless, although their dark color can delay the diagnosis of some skin cancers.
Eczema is a group of inflamed skin conditions that result in chronic itchy rashes. About 15 million people in the U.S. suffer from some form of eczema, including 10-20 percent of all infants. Symptoms vary from person to person but often include dry, red, itchy patches on the skin which break out in rashes when scratched.
Objects and conditions that trigger itchy eczema outbreaks may include rough or coarse materials touching the skin, excessive heat or sweating, soaps, detergents, disinfectants, fruit and meat juices, dust mites, animal saliva and danders, upper respiratory infections and stress.
Treatment involves the restriction of scratching, use of moisturizing lotions or creams, cold compresses and nonprescription anti-inflammatory corticosteroid creams and ointments. If this proves insufficient, physicians may prescribe corticosteroid medication, antibiotics to combat infection, or sedative antihistamines. Phototherapy is a common procedure that uses light to reduce rashes. For severe cases, drugs such as cyclosporine A may be recommended.
Melanoma is a potentially life-threatening skin cancer of the melanocytes, the cells that make melanin (brown pigment). Melanoma has a fatality rate higher than those for basal cell and squamous cell cancers – it accounts for more than 80 percent of all deaths from skin cancer.
The causes are not yet known, although there are many suspected risk factors, including:
Moles and other birthmarks are benign pigmented spots or patches of skin that range in color from tan, brown and black (moles) to red, pink or purple (vascular lesions, such as strawberry hemangiomas or port wine stains). Though most birthmarks are harmless, they may develop into cancer. Moles exhibiting any of the following warning signs should be examined by a professional immediately:
Depending on their depth, location and color, as well as the patient’s skin type, age and other factors, treatment for benign but unattractive birthmarks may take the form of laser or pulsed light therapy, microdermabrasion or surgical excision.
Psoriasis is a group of chronic skin disorders that cause itching and/or burning, scaling and crusting of the skin. Over seven million men and women in the U.S. of all ages have some form of psoriasis, which may be mild, moderate or severe. The most commonly affected areas are the scalp, elbows, knees, hands, feet and genitals.
Psoriasis cannot be cured but it can be treated successfully, sometimes for months or years at a time and occasionally even permanently. Treatment depends on the type, severity and location of psoriasis; the patient’s age, medical history and lifestyle; and the effect the disease has on the patient’s general mental health. The most common treatments are topical medications, phototherapy, photochemotherapy (PUVA), and oral or injectable medication (for severe symptoms).
Rosacea is a chronic skin disease that causes redness and swelling on the face. The scalp, neck, ears, chest, back and/or eyes may also be affected. Symptoms range from red pimples, lines and visible blood vessels to dry or burning skin and a tendency to flush easily. Many people find that the emotional effects of rosacea – such as low self-confidence and avoidance of social situations – are more difficult to handle than the physical ones. Although it can affect anyone, rosacea typically appears in light-skinned, light-haired adults aged 30-50. It is not yet known what causes rosacea and the disease is not curable, although it can be treated with topical and oral medications, laser therapy or laser surgery.
Warts are skin growths caused by viruses. Different warts respond to different treatments. Some go away on their own. Salicylic acid products (in the form of drops, gels, pads and bandages) can help self-treatment of many warts by dissolving the keratin protein that makes up the wart and the dead skin above it. Others can be removed via liquid nitrogen freezing or electrical stimulation. Surgery may be recommended for painful or large warts that do not respond to these treatments.
Whether for hygienic or cosmetic reasons, women and men who are tired of temporary, often painful methods of removing unwanted hair on the face, back, legs or other body areas may welcome laser hair removal with relief.
Lasers produce highly focused, intense beams of light. Dark pigments in the hair follicles beneath the skin’s surface absorb this light and convert it to heat, destroying the follicles and preventing hair growth for up to two years.
Varicose veins are unsightly bulging veins due to a backflow of blood. Varicose veins may be treated with a laser tuned to a specific wavelength absorbed by the blood. Laser treatment causes the vessel to heat up and collapse, while blood flow is naturally rerouted to the surrounding healthy veins. The body then breaks down and reabsorbs the "dead" vein.
Many people have second thoughts about their tattoos. Fortunately, you don’t have to live with your decision forever. Highly precise lasers can lighten or remove your tattoo by focusing or pulsing light on the ink particles, which then convert the energy to heat and break up into tiny pieces that are absorbed harmlessly by the body. All this can be accomplished without damaging the surrounding tissue. Results can generally be seen within a few weeks, although larger and darker tattoos may require more treatments than smaller, lighter ones. Occasionally treated skin will look whiter (paler) than the skin around it, but this is usually temporary and fades in the months following treatment.
BOTOX® Cosmetic is commonly used to reduce or eliminate the appearance of facial wrinkles. It is injected under the skin into areas surrounding the eyes, forehead and mouth to smooth crow's feet, frown and worry lines, and lines on the neck. Made from a purified protein, BOTOX® relaxes wrinkles and gives the face a rejuvenated look. BOTOX® may also be useful for migraine headaches, excessive sweating, and eye and neck muscle spasms.
Restylane® is designed to smooth wrinkles, sculpt lips and shape facial contours. It is a clear, synthetic gel made with hyaluronic acid, a natural substance that is found throughout your body. It carries little risk of allergic reaction. The most common areas for treatment are the glabellar lines (between the eyebrows) and the nasolabial folds (from the root of the nose to the angle of your mouth). With its unique ability to bind with water, Restylane remains in your skin for many months.