What Are Skin Lesions?
A skin lesion is a part of the skin that
has an abnormal growth or appearance compared to the skin around it.
Types of skin lesions
Two categories of skin lesions exist:
primary and secondary. Primary skin lesions are abnormal skin conditions
present at birth or acquired over one’s lifetime. Birthmarks are primary skin
lesions. Other types include the following.
Small blisters are also
called vesicles. These are skin lesions filled with a clear fluid less than 1/2
centimeter in size. Larger vesicles are called blisters or bullae. These
lesions can be the result of:
- steam burns
- insect bites
- friction from
shoes or clothes
Examples of macules are freckles
and flat moles. They are small spots that are typically brown, red, or white.
They are usually about 1 centimeter in diameter.
This is a solid, raised
skin lesion. Most nodules are more than 2 centimeters (cm) in diameter.
is a raised lesion. Most papules develop with many other papules. A patch of
papules or nodules is called a plaque. Plaques are common in people with
are small lesions filled with pus. They are typically the result of acne,
boils, or impetigo.
are lesions that cover small or large areas of skin. They can be caused by an
allergic reaction. A common allergic reaction rash occurs when someone touches
This is a
skin lesion caused by an allergic reaction. Hives are an example of wheals.
Secondary skin lesions are the result of
irritated or manipulated primary skin lesions. For example, if someone
scratches a mole until it bleeds, the resulting lesion, a crust, is now a
secondary skin lesion.
The most common secondary skin lesions
or a scab, is created when dried blood forms over a scratched and irritated
are typically caused by a bacterial infection or physical trauma. They are
often accompanied by poor circulation.
are patches of skin cells that build up and then flake off the skin.
cuts, and scrapes will leave scars that are not replaced with healthy, normal
skin. Instead, the skin returns as a thick, raised scar. This scar is called a
atrophy occurs when areas of your skin become thin and wrinkled from overuse of
topical steroids or poor circulation.
What causes skin lesions?
The most common cause of a skin lesion is
an infection on or in the skin. One example is a wart. The wart virus is passed
from one person to another through direct skin-to-skin contact.
A systemic infection, an infection that
occurs throughout your body, such as chicken pox or shingles, can cause skin
lesions all over your body.
Some skin lesions are hereditary, such as
moles and freckles. Birthmarks are lesions that exist at the time of birth.
Others can be the result of an allergic
reaction or sensitivity caused by conditions like poor circulation or diabetes.
Who is at risk for skin lesions?
Some skin lesions are hereditary. People
with family members who have moles or freckles are more likely to develop those
People with allergies may also be more
likely to develop skin lesions related to their allergy. People diagnosed with
an autoimmune disease such as psoriasis will continue to be at risk for skin
lesions throughout their lives.
Diagnosing skin lesions
In order to diagnose a
skin lesion, a dermatologist or doctor will want to conduct a full physical
exam. This will include observing the skin lesion and asking for a full account
of all symptoms. To confirm a diagnosis, they make take skin samples, perform a
biopsy of the affected area, or take a swab from the lesion to send to a lab.
Treating skin lesions
Treatment is based on the underlying cause
or causes for skin lesions. A doctor will take into account the type of lesion,
personal health history, and any treatments previously attempted.
First-line treatments are often topical medications
to help treat the inflammation and protect the affected area. Topical
medication can also provide mild symptom relief to stop pain, itching, or
burning caused by the skin lesion.
If your skin lesions are the result of a systemic
infection, such as shingles or chicken pox, you may be prescribed oral
medications to help ease the symptoms of the disease, including skin lesions.
Skin lesions that are infected are
typically lanced and drained to provide treatment and relief. Suspicious-looking
moles that have been changing over time may need to be removed surgically.
A type of vascular birthmark called hemangioma
results from malformed blood vessels. Laser surgery is often used to remove
this type of birthmark.
Some skin lesions are very itchy and
uncomfortable and you may be interested in home remedies for relief. Oatmeal
baths or lotions can provide relief from itching or burning caused by certain
skin lesions. If chafing is causing contact dermatitis in places where the skin
rubs against itself or a piece of clothing, absorbent powders or protective
balms can reduce friction and prevent additional skin lesions from developing.