Most people develop some sort of skin spot, rash, or lesion at some point in their lives. Skin spots and bumps can be benign, and some can be serious – I will review the most important things you should know about the spots and rashes that you see on your skin.

1. Sun– besides a sun tan or sunburn, the sun can lead to a range of changes in your skin. Freckles, for instance, occur on sun-exposed parts of the skin, especially in fair-skinned people, and those with light or red hair. Liver or age spots are brown/grey spots that appear as a result of the free radical-induced damage on the skin. Too much sun can lead to irregular colouring or pigmentation of the skin, appearing as light and darker areas of sun-exposed skin. Actinic keratosis or solar keratosis are small scaly red/brown/skin-toned patches that form from too much sun exposure, usually after the age of 40, and are an early sign of the beginnings of skin cancer, as they may develop into squamous cell carcinoma – if you are not sure, get it checked out with a dermatologist.

2. Infections– there are many that can reveal themselves as skin issues. For instance, tinea are fungal infections that can affect the head or body or feet, often known as ringworm – often as light-coloured patches. Viruses can appear as common warts, which are usually raised bumps with a rough surface. Shingles is the common name for a reactivation of the chicken pox virus, varicella-zoster, which is dormant in the nerves, whose rash shows up as a painful band of blisters on one side of the body. Bacterial infections of the skin often start with fever and chills, and then red and swollen skin emerges.

3. Vitiligo–refers to off-white depigmented spots and patches on the skin. It often affects the face and hands, though can occur on any part of your skin.

4. Tags– these are raised and often floppy bits of skin-coloured tissue, which commonly appears on the head or neck. People who are obese, or have diabetes or other blood-glucose abnormalities tend to develop multiple skin tags.

5. Moles– most people have moles, or pigmented spots on the body. They can be raised or flat, are usually a shade of brown, though can also be blue or black. Most are harmless, though some can develop into a type of cancer called melanoma – for this reason, it is important to monitor your moles, by yourself, and by your doctor.

6. Redness– red skin is a general sign of irritation or inflammation. It can be from something allergic, or from a toxin, infectious organism, or from the sun.

7. Signs of Cancer– the most common skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma. BCC appears as a shiny dome shaped bump covered with small blood vessels – it is the most common type of skin cancer, and the easiest to treat. SCC first appears as a red area, with a rough and or scaly surface, which gets raised and wart-like. It often originates in chronic sores, like from skin ulcers or scars or burns. Melanoma is the most dangerous and fortunately the rarest form of skin cancer. It begins near and often within an existing mole, usually having multiple colours, irregular borders, asymmetry, and gets larger in size.

8. Allergies– that affect the skin are often red and itchy, and can develop into bumps and fluid filled blisters. They can be due to something swallowed such as food, or a drug – appearing as hives – a red or pale raised bump. An allergy appearing on the skin can also come from direct contact with the allergen such as nickel, appearing as a red, scaly, crusty rash in the area of contact.

9. Petechiae– these tiny red spots are blood capillaries that can appear due to problems with blood clotting, as part of a drug reaction, deficiency of vitamin K, or due to a variety of microbial organisms.

10. Drug Reaction– a drug-related rash can be a side effect of the medication, but can also be an allergy reaction. The rash often starts as a discrete red spot, but then these spread over the body. If your skin spot started within a week of starting a pharmaceutical or herbal medication, it may be related to the medication – check with your prescribing medical or naturopathic doctor.

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