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Skin Conditions: An Overview

Everything you need to know about skin conditions, including their diagnosis, treatment and more.

What are skin conditions?

Skin conditions or skin disorders are any problems affecting the health or appearance of the skin – be it irritation, inflammation, itching, redness or swelling. There is tremendous variation in the symptoms and severity of skin conditions between people – they can be temporary or permanent, painless or painful, for instance.

Skin conditions can result from allergens, viruses, fungi, bacteria, parasites, or even genetics. Allergic skin conditions are triggered by allergens - common examples being certain foods, soaps, materials or animal furs. Other conditions, such as psoriasis or atopic eczema, may be made worse by certain items, but we do not yet know why they develop in the first place.

What are the common signs?

Any change in the colour, texture of appearance of the skin is, more often than not, a sign of a skin condition. Common examples include:

  • Itching
  • Flaking
  • Blistering
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Growths

If any of these symptoms appear, without explanation, and persist for more than a few days, speak to a doctor.

Which are contagious?

All of the following conditions are contagious, the only difference between them is that some happen to be more common in adults than children, and vice versa:

Where possible, click to learn more about contagious skin conditions.

How common are skin conditions?

According to the British Skin Foundation, 60% of British people currently suffer, or have suffered, from skin conditions at some point in their lifetime. They add that 70% of British people have visible skin conditions or scars that affect their confidence.

The Primary Care Dermatology Society go further still, citing one study revealing skin conditions to be the second most common ailment in adults, and another suggesting that 54% of people reported a skin problem in the 12 months preceding the study.

One final study referenced by the Primary Care Dermatology Society predicts that although over half of the population may have a skin condition, only 22.5% of those conditions would be considered worthy of medical care.

What forms of skin condition are there?

Some of the most frequently occurring skin conditions in the UK today.


A condition associated with puberty causing the development of spots on the face, chest, back and/or shoulders.


Causes the skin to become inflamed resulting in itchiness, dryness and cracking. Also known as dermatitis.

Itchy Scalp

Can result from several conditions, but causes the appearance of visible flakes either in hair or on clothing.


A form of skin cancer identified by certain types of mole, and associated with overexposure to UV light.


Common infection caused by fungus, rather than a parasite, producing a ring-shaped rash.


Refers to a red, raised rash coming in two distinct forms, one much more common than the other.


Can only be contracted by people who have already had chickenpox, creating a painful rash with itchy blisters.


Small, rough lumps on the hands or feet. Warts are very common, but usually get better on their own.


A rash found in neck folds, the groin, under the arms, behind the ears or between fingers and toes.


Our advice on making looking after your stoma more manageable, even if you have only just got one.

Fungal Skin Infection

Easily treatable in most cases, but may need to make lifestyle changes to avoid repeat infections.

Skin Abscess

Caused by bacterial infections, and developing anywhere on the body. May be large, painful or embarrassing.


A common complaint, the result of blood vessels bursting and blood leaking up to the surface of the skin.


An infection that should be dealt with quickly, as it damages deeper layers of skin and surrounding tissue.

Dry Skin

Uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing, but easily treated and managed with the right care regime.

Foot Infection

Easily ignored but quickly worsening if left untreated, seek medical advice for suspected foot infections ASAP.

Cold Sores (Herpes)

When tingling around the lip creates a blister, a core sore is born. Unsightly but entirely treatable.


Found under the skin almost anywhere on the body, with some areas being of more concern than others.

Skin Rash

Any change in the texture or colour of the skin. Particularly common, appearing anywhere on the body.


Causes the face to become red and irritated but fear not, there are plenty of treatment options available.

Skin Allergies

The rashes and blistering that result from exposure to an allergen.


Can be caused by just a dozen adult human scabies mites, passed from person to person by direct skin contact.


Common in children and infants, though capable of being passed to adults, impetigo is highly contagious.

Anal Itching

When persistent, has a range of causes, and as many treatments. Speak to a doctor if experienced yourself.

Your skin condition questions, answered

Illustration of a consultation between patient and doctor

Quite simply, by looking at the skin. In the majority of cases, doctors can identify a skin condition either in-person, or over a video consultation, by looking at the affected areas.

More in-depth skin examinations might involve the use of a handheld lens or dermatoscope, or in more advanced cases, procedures like biopsies, cultures or skin scraping, as well as patch or prick testing.

Skin conditions are commonly treated with the following:

  • Medicated creams and ointments
  • Antihistamines
  • Antibiotics
  • Vitamin or steroid injections
  • Prescription medications
  • Laser therapy

Skin imperfections, however, or temporary skin conditions are treated with:

  • Medicated makeup
  • Over-the-counter skincare products
  • Stronger hygiene regimes
  • Dietary changes

Unfortunately not all skin conditions respond to treatment, some simply clear without any intervention in the fullness of time. In some cases even once a skin condition has been treated, or is no longer evident, they can return if triggered by stress, illness or other factors.

Though it isn't possible to prevent skin conditions that result from genetics or complications from illness, there are steps you can take to prevent some noninfectious skin conditions:

  • Gently cleansing your skin daily
  • Regularly using moisturiser
  • Staying hydrated
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Wearing sunscreen
  • Sleeping at least seven hours a night
  • Avoiding contact with allergens and irritants
Illustration of a consultation between patient and doctor

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