Saturday, October 29, 2016

17 Skin Problems and What They Look Like

Got Skin Problems?

Is your skin itchy, broken out, or covered in a rash or strange spots? Skin inflammation, changes in texture or color, and spots may result from infection, a chronic skin condition, or contact with an allergen or irritant. If you think you have one of these common adult skin problems, have your doctor check it out. Most are minor, but others can signal something more serious.

Shingles (Herpes Zoster)

A rash of raised dots that turns into painful blisters, shingles causes your skin to burn, itch, tingle, or become very sensitive. Shingles often shows up on your trunk and buttocks, but can appear anywhere. An outbreak lasts about two weeks. You’ll recover, but pain, numbness, and itching might linger for months, years, or even the rest of your life. Treatment includes creams for your skin, antiviral drugs, steroids, and even antidepressants. . It’s important to be treated early so you don’t develop residual pain.

Hives (Urticaria)

Hives look like welts and can itch, sting or burn. They vary in size and sometimes join together. They may appear on any part of you and last anywhere from minutes to days. Causes include extreme temperatures, infections like strep throat, and allergies to medications, foods, and food additives. Antihistamines and skin creams can help.


Thick, red patches of skin covered with white or silvery scales are signs of psoriasis. Doctors know how psoriasis works -- your immune system triggers new skin cells to grow too quickly -- but they don't now what causes it. The patches show up on your scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back. They can heal and come back throughout your life. Treatments include creams and ointments for your skin, light therapy, and medications taken by mouth, injection, or IV.


Eczema is a blanket term for several non-contagious conditions that cause inflamed, red, dry, and itchy skin. Doctors aren't sure what makes eczema start in the first place, but they do know that stress, irritants (like soaps), allergens, and climate can trigger flares. In adults, it often appears on the elbows, hands, and in skin folds. Several medications treat eczema. Some are spread over the skin, and others are taken by mouth or as a shot.


A tendency to flush easily, followed by redness on your nose, chin, cheeks, and forehead could be rosacea. It can get redder over time with blood vessels you can see. You may have thickened skin, bumps, and pus-filled pimples. It could even affect your eyes. Medications taken by mouth or spread on the skin are available. Doctors can treat broken blood vessels and red or thickened skin with lasers.

Cold Sores (Fever Blisters)

The herpes simplex virus causes small, painful, fluid-filled blisters on your mouth or nose. Cold sores last about 10 days and easily spread from person to person. Triggers include fever, too much sun, stress, and hormonal changes like periods. You can treat cold sores with antiviral pills or creams. Call your doctor if the sores contain pus, the redness spreads, you have a fever, or if your eyes become irritated. These can be treated with prescription pills or creams.

Rash From Plants

Contact with the oily coating from poison ivy, oak, or sumac causes a rash in many people. It begins with redness and swelling at the site, and then becomes itchy. Blisters usually show up within 12 to 72 hours after you touch the plant. A typical rash looks like a red line, the result of the plant dragging across your skin. An outbreak usually lasts up to 2 weeks. Treatment can include medicine spread on the skin or taken by mouth.

Soothe Itchy Plant Rashes

Prescription or over-the-counter medication can help soothe the itch. Try cool compresses and oatmeal baths, too. Your doctor may prescribe medication for a severe rash and antibiotics for an infection. Learn to spot these plants so you can avoid direct contact. In general, poison oak grows west of the Rockies; poison ivy to the east.

Razor Bumps

Razor bumps pop up after you shave, when the sharp edge of a closely cut hair curls back and grows into your skin. This can cause irritation, pimples, and even scars. To minimize razor bumps, take a hot shower before you shave, pull the blade in the direction your hair grows, and don't stretch your skin while you pull the razor across it. Always use a shaving cream or foam. Rinse with cold water, then apply moisturizer.

Skin Tags

This small flap of flesh-colored or slightly darker tissue hangs off your skin by a stalk. They're usually found on the neck, chest, back, armpits, under the breasts, or in the groin area. Skin tags appear most often on women and elderly people. They aren’t dangerous and usually don't cause pain unless they become irritated when clothing or nearby skin rubs against them. A doctor can cut, freeze, or burn them off.


Acne breaks out when a pore clogged with oil and dead skin cells gets inflamed. Pores that stay open and turn dark are called blackheads; completely blocked pores are known as whiteheads. Bacteria and hormones trigger acne, which most often shows up on your face, chest, and back. You can also get pus-filled pimples and cysts. To control acne, keep oily areas clean and don't squeeze (this may cause infection and scars).

Athlete's Foot

This fungal skin infection causes your feet to peel, turn red, itch, and burn. You may also get blisters and sores. Athlete's foot is contagious and passed through direct contact. To prevent it, don't share shoes with an infected person or walk barefoot in areas like locker rooms or near pools. Treat it with topical antifungal lotions. A doctor can prescribe medications for more severe cases. During treatment, you’ll need to keep your feet and the insides of your shoes clean and dry.


Moles, which are usually brown or black, can be anywhere on the body. They might show up alone or in groups and generally appear before age 20. Some moles change slowly over the years. They can go from flat to raised, grow hair, or change color. Get your moles checked once a year by a dermatologist. Pay close attention to any that change, have irregular borders, are an unusual or uneven color, bleed, or itch.

Age or Liver Spots

These pesky brown or gray spots aren’t really caused by aging, though they do become more common as you get older. You get them from exposure to sunlight, which is why they tend to appear on your face, hands, and arms. You can try bleach creams, acid peels, and light-based treatments to fade them. See a dermatologist to rule out serious problems like melanoma, a type of skin cancer.

Pityriasis Rosea

A harmless rash, pityriasis rosea usually begins as a single scaly, pink patch with a raised border. Days to weeks later, it starts to itch and spread. The rash may look like Christmas trees spread across your body. Doctors don't know for sure what causes it, but they don't think it's contagious. It often goes away in 6 to 8 weeks without treatment. Pityriasis rosea most often shows up between the ages of 10 and 35.

Melasma ('Pregnancy Mask')

Melasma (chloasma) is tan or brown patches on your cheeks, nose, forehead, and chin. It’s often called the "pregnancy mask" because it happens in half of all pregnant women. Men can get it, too. If it doesn’t go away on its own after the baby comes, you can treat it with prescription creams, over-the-counter products, or with laser treatments. Sunlight makes it worse, so always use a broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen.


In most cases, common warts appear on the fingers or hands. They're caused by the human papillomavirus. Warts spread when you touch something used by a person with the virus. To prevent more warts, cover them with bandages, keep them dry, and don’t pick them. They're usually harmless and painless. You can treat them with topical medications, or a doctor can freeze or burn them off. More advanced removal techniques include surgery, lasers, and chemicals.

Seborrheic Keratoses

Seborrheic keratoses are noncancerous growths that often show up as you age. They can appear on many areas of the skin either alone or in groups. They may be dark or multicolored, and they usually have a grainy surface, though they can be smooth and waxy. You don't need to treat them unless they get irritated or you don’t like the way they look. They're easy to mistake for moles or skin cancer, but a dermatologist can tell the difference.

How to Spot Prostate Cancer

What Is Prostate Cancer?

Prostate cancer develops in a man's prostate, the walnut-sized gland just below the bladder that produces some of the fluid in semen. It's the most common cancer in men after skin cancer. Prostate cancer often grows very slowly and may not cause significant harm. But some types are more aggressive and can spread quickly without treatment.

Symptoms of Prostate Cancer

In the early stages, men may have no symptoms. Later, symptoms can include:

o Frequent urination, especially at night
o Difficulty starting or stopping urination
o Weak or interrupted urinary stream
o Painful or burning sensation during urination or ejaculation
o Blood in urine or semen

Advanced cancer can cause deep pain in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs.

Enlarged Prostate or Prostate Cancer?

The prostate can grow larger as men age, sometimes pressing on the bladder or urethra and causing symptoms similar to prostate cancer. This is called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). It's not cancer and can be treated if symptoms become bothersome. A third problem that can cause urinary symptoms is prostatitis. This inflammation or infection may also cause a fever and in many cases is treated with medication.

Risk Factors You Can't Control

Growing older is the greatest risk factor for prostate cancer, particularly after age 50. After 70, studies suggest that most men have some form of prostate cancer, though there may be no outward symptoms. Family history increases a man's risk: having a father or brother with prostate cancer doubles the risk. African-Americans are at high risk and have the highest rate of prostate cancer in the world.

Risk Factors You Can Control

Diet seems to play a role in the development of prostate cancer, which is much more common in countries where meat and high-fat dairy are mainstays. The reason for this link is unclear. Dietary fat, particularly animal fat from red meat, may boost male hormone levels. And this may fuel the growth of cancerous prostate cells. A diet too low in fruits and vegetables may also play a role.

Myths About Prostate Cancer

Here are some things that will not cause prostate cancer: Too much sex, a vasectomy, and masturbation. If you have an enlarged prostate (BPH), that does not mean you are at greater risk of developing prostate cancer. Researchers are still studying whether alcohol use, STDs, or prostatitis play a role in the development of prostate cancer.

Can Prostate Cancer Be Found Early?

Screening tests are available to find prostate cancer early, but government guidelines don't call for routine testing in men at any age. The tests may find cancers that are so slow-growing that medical treatments would offer no benefit. And the treatments themselves can have serious side effects. The American Cancer Society advises men to talk with a doctor about screening tests, beginning at:

o 50 for average-risk men who expect to live at least 10 more years.
o 45 for men at high risk. This includes African-Americans and those with a father, brother, or son diagnosed before age 65.
o 40 for men with more than one first-degree relative diagnosed at an early age.

Screening: DRE and PSA

Your doctor may initially do a digital rectal exam (DRE) to feel for bumps or hard spots on the prostate. After a discussion with your doctor, a blood test can be used to measure prostate-specific antigen (PSA), a protein produced by prostate cells. An elevated level may indicate a higher chance that you have cancer, but you can have a high level and still be cancer-free. It is also possible to have a normal PSA and have prostate cancer.

PSA Test Results

A normal PSA level is considered to be under 4 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) of blood, while a PSA above 10 suggests a high risk of cancer. But there are many exceptions:

o Men can have prostate cancer with a PSA less than 4.
o A prostate that is inflamed (prostatitis) or enlarged (BPH) can boost PSA levels, yet further testing may show no evidence of cancer.
o Some BPH drugs can lower PSA levels, despite the presence of prostate cancer, called a false negative.

If either a PSA or DRE test are abnormal, your doctor will order other tests.

Prostate Cancer Biopsy

If a physical exam or PSA test suggests a problem, your doctor may recommend a biopsy. A needle is inserted either through the rectum wall or the skin between the rectum and scrotum. Multiple small tissue samples are removed and examined under a microscope. A biopsy is the best way to detect cancer and predict whether it is slow-growing or aggressive.

Biopsy and Gleason Score

A pathologist looks for cell abnormalities and "grades" the tissue sample from 1 to 5. The sum of two Gleason grades is the Gleason score. These scores help determine the chances of the cancer spreading. They range from 2, less aggressive, to 10, a very aggressive cancer. Gleason scores helps guide the type of treatment your doctor will recommend.

Prostate Cancer Imaging

Some men may need additional tests to see if the cancer has spread beyond the prostate. These can include ultrasound, a CT scan, or an MRI scan (seen here). A radionuclide bone scan traces an injection of low-level radioactive material to help detect cancer that has spread to the bone.

In the MRI scan shown here, the tumor is the green, kidney-shaped mass in the center, next to the prostate gland (in pink).

Prostate Cancer Staging

Staging is used to describe how far prostate cancer has spread (metastasized) and to help determine the best treatment.

o Stage I: Cancer is small and still within the prostate.
o Stage II: Cancer is more advanced, but still confined to the prostate.
o Stage III: Cancer has spread to the outer part of the prostate and nearby seminal vesicles.
o Stage IV: Cancer has spread to lymph nodes, nearby organs or tissues such as the bladder or rectum, or distant organs such as bones or lungs.

Prostate Cancer Survival Rates

The good news about prostate cancer is that it usually grows slowly. And 9 out of 10 cases are found in the early stages. Overall, the 5-year relative survival rate is 100% for men with disease confined to the prostate or nearby tissues, and many men live much longer. When the disease has spread to distant areas, that figure drops to 28%. But these numbers are based on men diagnosed at least 5 years ago. The outlook may be better for men diagnosed and treated today.

Treatment: Watchful Waiting

With low-risk cancer, one option is to watch and wait. This is determined by your biopsy, PSA test, and Gleason scores. Your doctor will order periodic testing. Other treatments -- with the risk of sexual or urinary problems -- may not be necessary. Some men who are older or have serious health conditions may not need treatment. However, more aggressive treatment is usually recommended for younger men or those with more aggressive disease.

Treatment: Radiation Therapy

External beam radiation to kill cancer cells can be used as a first treatment or after prostate cancer surgery. It can also help relieve bone pain from the spread of cancer. In brachytherapy, tiny radioactive pellets about the size of a grain of rice are inserted into the prostate. Both methods can impair erectile function. Fatigue, urinary problems, and diarrhea are other possible side effects.

Treatment: Surgery

Removing the prostate, or radical prostatectomy, is used to eliminate the cancer when it is confined to the prostate. New techniques use smaller incisions and seek to avoid damaging nearby nerves. If lymph nodes are also cancerous, prostatectomy may not be the best option. Surgery may impair urinary and sexual function, but both can improve over time.

Treatment: Hormone Therapy

Hormone therapy may shrink or slow the growth of cancer, but unless it is used with another therapy it will not eliminate the cancer. Drugs or hormones block or stop the production of testosterone and other male hormones, called androgens. Side effects can include hot flashes, growth of breast tissue, weight gain, and impotence.

Treatment: Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy kills cancer cells throughout the body, including those outside the prostate, so it is used to treat more advanced cancer and cancer that did not respond to hormone therapy. Treatment is usually intravenous and is given in cycles lasting 3-6 months. Because the chemotherapy kills other fast-growing cells in the body, you may have hair loss and mouth sores. Other side effects include nausea, vomiting, and fatigue.

Treatment: Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy freezes and kills cancerous cells within the prostate (like the highly magnified cells shown here.) It is not as widely used because little is known about its long-term effectiveness. It's less invasive than surgery, with a shorter recovery time. Because the freezing damages nerves, as many as 80% of men become impotent after cryosurgery. There can be temporary pain and burning sensations in the bladder and bowel.

Treatment: Prostate Cancer Vaccine

This vaccine is designed to treat, not prevent, prostate cancer by spurring your body's immune system to attack prostate cancer cells. Immune cells are removed from your blood, activated to fight cancer, and infused back into the blood. Three cycles occur in one month. It's used for advanced prostate cancer that no longer responds to hormone therapy. Mild side effects can occur such as fatigue, nausea, and fever.

Hope for Advanced Cancer

Your doctor will continue to monitor your PSA levels and may perform other tests after treatment for prostate cancer. If it recurs or spreads to other parts of the body, additional treatment may be recommended. Lifestyle choices may matter, too. One study found that prostate cancer survivors who exercised regularly had a lower risk of dying, for example.

Coping With Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common side effect of prostate cancer treatments. Generally, erectile function improves within two years after surgery. Improvement may be better for younger men than for those over 70. You also may benefit from ED medications. Other treatments, such as injection therapy and vacuum devices, may help.

Food for Health

A cancer-conscious diet may be the best choice for survivors who want to bolster their health and those hoping to lower their risk. That means:

o Five or more fruits and veggies a day
o Whole grains instead of white flour or white rice
o Limit high-fat meat
o Limit or eliminate processed meat (hot dogs, cold cuts, bacon)
o Limit alcohol to 1-2 drinks per day (if you drink)

Foods high in folate may have some action against prostate cancer (such as spinach, orange juice, lentils). Studies found mixed results on lycopene, an antioxidant found in tomatoes.

Supplements: Buyer Beware

Be wary of supplements that are marketed to prevent prostate cancer. Some herbal substances can interfere with PSA levels. A 10-year study showed an increase in the risk of cancer for men who took folic acid supplements. A 5-year study of selenium and vitamin E did not show a decreased risk of prostate cancer. Be sure to tell your doctor if you are taking vitamins or supplements.

How to Spot a Heart Attack

What Is It?

When blood can't get to your heart, your heart muscle doesn't get the oxygen it needs. Without oxygen, its cells can be damaged or die.

The key to recovery is to get your blood flow restored quickly. Get medical help right away if you think you're having symptoms of a heart attack.


Over time, cholesterol and a fatty material called plaque can build up on the walls inside blood vessels that take blood to your heart, called arteries. This makes it harder for blood to flow freely. Most heart attacks happen when a piece of this plaque breaks off. A blood clot forms around the broken-off plaque, and it blocks the artery.


You may feel pain, pressure, or discomfort in your chest. You could be short of breath, sweat, faint, or feel sick to your stomach. Your neck, jaw, or shoulders might hurt.

Men and women can have different symptoms. Men are more likely to break out in a cold sweat and to feel pain move down their left arm.

Symptoms in Women

Women are more likely than men to have back or neck pain, heartburn, and shortness of breath. They tend to have stomach trouble, including an upset stomach, feeling queasy, and throwing up. They may also feel very tired, light-headed, or dizzy. A couple of weeks before a heart attack, a woman might have flu-like symptoms and sleep problems.

About 435,000 women have heart attacks in the U.S. each year. Symptoms can be so mild they're often dismissed as something minor.

What to Do

If you or someone you're with has symptoms that might be a heart attack, call 911 right away. If it is, you're more likely to survive if you get treated within 90 minutes. While you're on the phone, the person should chew and swallow an aspirin (unless they're allergic) to lower the risk of a blood clot. Are they unconscious? Hands-only CPR can double their chances of survival.


An EKG, which checks your heart's electrical activity, can help doctors see if you're having a heart attack. It can also show which artery is clogged or blocked.

Doctors can also diagnose a heart attack with blood tests that look for proteins that heart cells release when they die.


Doctors will quickly act to get blood flowing to your heart again. You may get drugs that dissolve blood clots.

You'll likely have a procedure called a coronary angiogram. A thin tube with a tiny balloon on the end goes through your artery. It opens up the blockage by flattening the plaque against the walls. Most times, doctors place a small, mesh tube called a stent in your artery to make sure it stays open.

What Puts You at Risk?

Your odds of having a heart attack go up with age, and men are more likely to have one than women. A family history of heart disease also increases your risk. Smoking raises your chances of a heart attack. So does having high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, diabetes, and being obese. Stress, a lack of exercise, and depression can, too.


If you smoke, stop. It will immediately cut your chances of a heart attack by a third.

Get exercise and eat right. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day, 5 days a week. Eat plenty of fruits, veggies, and whole grains to keep your arteries healthy.

For some people, taking a daily aspirin will help. Talk to your doctor to see if it's right for you.

Find positive ways to manage your stress.

Life After a Heart Attack

If you're in the hospital, you may come home after just a few days. You can get back to your normal daily life in a few weeks.

Cardiac rehab can help you recover. You'll get your own fitness program and learn how to keep up a heart-healthy lifestyle. Counselors give you support if you're feeling down or worried about having another attack.