What causes skin conditions?

There are many causes of skin disorders, including infections, malignancies, allergies, and other inflammatory conditions. Skin conditions can also be caused by physical or environmental factors, such as fire and trauma, sunlight exposure, and inherited factors.

Skin conditions caused by allergies and inflammation

Common skin conditions that are caused by allergic and inflammatory reactions include:

  • Allergic contact dermatitis, such as an allergy to an ointment

  • Eczema (atopic dermatitis), including chronic eczema

  • Erythema multiforme
  • Hives (allergy-related welt or rash that is often itchy)

  • Irritant contact dermatitis (inflammatory or allergic condition caused by poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac)

  • Psoriasis (chronic skin disorder marked by inflammation and raised areas of thickened skin and lesions made up of dead skin cells)

  • Rosacea (chronic inflammatory skin disorder that causes redness and other lesions on the face)

  • Scabies (allergic reaction to mite bites)

  • Seborrheic dermatitis (inflammatory skin condition that causes dandruff in adolescents and adults and cradle cap in infants)

  • Vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels)

Skin conditions caused by infections

Common skin conditions that are caused by viral, fungal, parasitic and bacterial infections include:

  • Abscess (collection of pus under the skin caused by infection)
  • Boil (caused by a bacterial infection within a hair follicle)
  • Cellulitis (invasive infection of the skin and surrounding tissues)
  • Cold sores (also known as fever blisters, which are caused by herpes simplex virus)
  • Erysipelas
  • Folliculitis (inflammation of hair follicles caused by infection, creating an itchy rash and pustules)
  • Genital sores (also known as genital herpes; caused by herpes simplex virus)
  • Hand foot and mouth disease
  • Impetigo (oozing blisters caused by group A Streptococcus pyogenes or Staphylococcus aureus)
  • Lice (parasite that lives in human hair and feeds on blood from the scalp, causing itching and inflammation)
  • MRSA skin infection (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection)
  • Ringworm (fungal skin infection, also called tinea, that causes jock itch, athlete’s foot, and itching on other areas on the body)
  • Shingles (painful disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus which causes severe nerve pain and a skin rash)
  • Warts (benign growth caused by human papillomavirus, or HPV)

    Skin conditions resulting from other causes

    Other common skin conditions or causes include:

    • Acne (blackheads, whiteheads, pustules, and other lesions caused by clogged pores)

    • Burn (caused by hot water and air, chemicals, fire, or electricity)

    • Hair loss (the appearance of thinner hair or bald patches on the scalp, eyebrows and eyelash areas, or total hair loss on the body)

    • Inflammation from an insect bite

    • Itchy skin caused by lack of moisture and excessive dryness

    • Nutritional deficiencies

    • Skin cancer (cancer that forms in the tissues of the skin)

    • Skin lacerations and contusions from injury and trauma, such as scrapes, cuts, and being hit or bumping into hard objects

    • Sunburn

    What are the risk factors for skin conditions?

    Certain factors increase the risk of developing a skin condition, although not all people with risk factors will develop problems. Risk factors include:

    • Contact with poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac

    • Exposure to chemicals or other substances that may injure or irritate the skin

    • Exposure to dry weather (hot and cold)

    • Exposure to UV light, either from the sun or tanning beds

    • Personal or family history of allergies

    • Personal or family history of autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes

    • Personal or family history of certain skin conditions, such as psoriasis, which tends to run in families

    • Poor hygiene

    • Sex with multiple partners (increases the likelihood of developing genital herpes)

    Reducing your risk of skin conditions

    Most people will develop a skin condition at some point in their life. However, avoiding certain activities can help minimize your chances of developing some conditions. Ways you can reduce your risk include:

    • Avoiding sun exposure and tanning beds

    • Maintaining clean skin without excessive water use, which dries out the skin

    • Seeking regular medical care and following your treatment plan for allergies and other skin conditions

    • Wearing protective clothing when hiking through areas that contain poison oak and other irritants


    What are skin conditions?

    Skin conditions include any disease, disorder or condition that affects the skin. The skin is the largest organ of the body and is the first line of defense against invading pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses. The skin is also an important sense organ, helps retain nutrients and water, and helps regulate the body’s temperature.

    Some of the most common skin conditions include:... Read more about skin conditionsintroduction


    What are the symptoms of skin conditions?

    Skin conditions can cause a variety of symptoms that can affect a small or large area of the body and may affect other body systems. Symptoms vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.

    Skin-related symptoms of skin conditions

    Skin-related symptoms include:

    • Blistering and other sores

    How are skin conditions treated?

    Treatment of skin conditions varies depending on the type and stage of the skin condition and other factors.

    Treatment of skin conditions caused by allergies and inflammation

    Skin conditions caused by allergies and inflammation can be treated with the following measures:

    Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 30, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

    This Article is Filed Under: Skin, Hair and Nails

    Top Features in Skin, Hair and Nails

    15 Ways To Get Better Medicine

    People who are actively involved in their medical care stay healthier, recover quicker when they're ill, and live longer, healthier lives.