What causes skin lesion?

Skin lesions have a wide variety of causes. The most common causes of skin lesions are injury, aging, infectious diseases, allergies, and small infections of the skin or hair follicles. Chronic diseases such as diabetes or autoimmune disorders can cause skin lesions. Skin cancer or precancerous changes also appear as skin lesions.

Common causes of skin lesions

Changes in the appearance of the skin can result from common conditions such as:

  • Acne
  • Boils and carbuncles
  • Folliculitis
  • Freckles
  • Nevi (moles) and other benign skin growths
  • Skin tags

Injury-related causes of skin lesions

Skin lesions may be caused by physical injury including:

  • Bruises
  • Burns, including sunburn
  • Excessive exposure to sun or wind
  • Extreme cold
  • Cuts or scrapes
  • Insect bites or stings

Age-related causes of skin lesions

Skin lesions may be caused by processes related to aging including:

  • Age spots (often called liver spots, harmless discolorations that appear with advancing age)
  • Easy bruising
  • Fragile skin

Illness-related causes of skin lesions

Skin lesions may be caused by another illness including:

  • Bacterial infection, such as scarlet fever, or meningococcal meningitis, a serious condition caused by group A Streptococcus, can cause a skin rash
  • Systemic illness, such as diabetes, can lead to changes in skin color or texture, as well as sores and other lesions due to poor wound healing and poor circulation
  • Viral infection, such as varicella-zoster, can cause skin lesions at many stages of life (chickenpox in children and shingles in adults)

Allergy-related causes of skin lesions

Skin lesions can also be caused by allergies including:

  • Allergies to medications
  • Contact dermatitis such as a reaction to nickel in jewelry
  • Food allergies

Serious or life-threatening causes of skin lesions

In some cases, skin lesions may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be evaluated immediately in an emergency setting.

  • Serious allergy can result in hives or a rash and may be associated with anaphylaxis and swelling of the mouth or throat
  • Skin cancers and precancerous changes are a cause of skin lesions
  • Infections that may spread throughout the body are often marked by swollen and darkened skin along the lines of veins in a leg or arm

Questions for diagnosing the cause of skin lesions

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your skin lesions including:

  • When did you first notice the lesions?
  • Did you start any new medications or try any new types of food immediately before the lesion formed?
  • Do you have any other skin lesions?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • Does the lesion itch or burn?
  • Has the lesion changed in size, shape or color?
  • Have you had similar lesions before?
  • Does anything relieve or worsen the symptoms?

What are the potential complications of skin lesion?

The complications of skin lesions depend on the cause. Direct complications of skin lesions often include permanent changes in the skin, such as a scar. Complications of certain lesions, such as melanoma or a rash accompanying a serious infection, can be serious, even life threatening.

Because some skin lesions can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Discoloration of the skin
  • Meningitis (infection or inflammation of the sac around the brain and spinal cord)
  • Organ failure or dysfunction
  • Scarring
  • Spread of cancer
  • Spread of infection


Skin rashes and other changes. FamilyDoctor.org. http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/tools/symptom/545.html. Accessed April 27, 2011.

Rashes. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003220.htm. Accessed April 27, 2011.


What is a skin lesion?

A skin lesion is any change in the normal character of your skin. A skin lesion may occur on any part of your body and cover a tiny or large area. Skin lesions include rash, pus-filled sacs, blisters, swelling, discolorations, bumps, hardening, or any other change in or on your skin. Skin lesions may result from a wide range of causes, as harmless as a small scrape or as serious as Read more about skin lesionintroduction


What other symptoms might occur with skin lesion?

Skin lesions may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the skin may also involve other body systems.... Read more about skin lesionsymptoms

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 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

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