This is a very common question and almost all patients ask this when they visit their dermatologist. But in today’s world, many people try to diagnose their skin disorder using the internet. They will try to match the images of different diseases to their skin conditions and then GUESS what skin disease they are suffering from, based on their chosen images. Some of them even go to the extent of treating them all by themselves and as a result end up facing even more disease complications.
Let me put it into perspective for you, so you may have an idea about what you are asking.
Fact: Roughly 3000 different skin diseases are diagnosed and managed/treated by dermatologists!!
And those who opt to treat themselves using the internet try to pick just one disease image (out of the 3000 possible images) that matches their own skin condition closely.
Mathematically, what are the chances of getting this correct? Only 0.03% !!
Remember, your skin is the first organ of your body that others notice whenever you encounter them. Its really not a good idea to diagnose yourself using the internet or using an App that claims to diagnose your skin disorder.
What skin disease do i have?
The best answer to this question is: Visit a Dermatologist and s/he will guide you about your skin condition. You may also see a dermatologist online.
However, if this is not a possibility, take a look at the list of most common skin disorders and their given below and try to figure out if you have any one of them. Although this is not the perfect approach, it is likely to help you, since I have chosen the skin disorders that are most frequently encountered in our daily clinical practice in Pakistan.
Very itchy skin disease caused by a mite called Sarcoptes scabiei
Almost never affects the skin above your neck
The mite forms burrows in the skin
Easily spreads by direct skin contact or by sharing fabrics (beds, clothings)
Usually more than one person of the family is involved by the time patients visit a dermatologist
Skin in groins and under the breasts (in women) is frequently affected
Patients usually give a history of contact with a person who had itchy skin
People living in institutions like hostels, barracks or madrassas are often affected
Acne / Steroid induced acne
Frequently seen in young adults of both genders
Some patients may continue to have acne beyond 35 years of age
Common causes include: hormonal factors, Propionibacterium acnes bacteria and misuse of steroids
Acne mostly involves face, but other parts of body like upper chest, trunk may be affected
Comedones i.e. whiteheads or blackheads are visible
In some patients, pus-filled pimples are present
Milder forms of acne show little inflammation
In severe acne, marked inflammation is present
In severe acne, cysts may be felt under the skin
In some pregnant women, acne appears during pregnancy but disappears after pregnancy
In Asia, many young patients use cosmetic creams to change their skin complexion, not knowing that such creams contain steroids. Such creams give birth to acne
Acne is treatable in most cases
Cold Sores (Herpes Labialis)
Caused by a virus (HSV-1)
This disease is contagious i.e. it can spread from one person to another
If this is your first time, you may develop fever, sore throat, headache and muscle pain
Mostly starts with a burning or itching feeling around lips
About a day later, blisters appear in close groups on or around lips; swelling may be felt
Skin becomes red and painful
Later, in the next 2 or 3 days, blisters rupture and the fluid inside is released
Cold sores may affect you again and again; mostly affecting the same spots of skin each time
May clear without treatment
Your doctor will manage it using antiviral drugs
Also called chloasma or mask of pregnancy (in pregnant women)
Possible causes: hormonal factors, birth control pills, pregnancy, anemia, sun exposure
Flat brown patches on both sides of face (forehead, nose, cheeks, lips); may affect shoulders and upper arms
People with dark complexion are more likely to have melasma
Melasma is more common in women, but men are also affected
Sun exposure can trigger or worsen melasma
Hundreds of poor quality creams are sold in Asian market, each claiming to cure melasma. Many of them contain steroids. When patients use them, their skin gets worse
Melasma can be managed by your dermatologist
Hives / Urticaria
Raised itchy skin-colored bumps that appear and mostly disappear within 24 hours
Can appear, disappear and reappear over short time periods
The skin of any part of your body may get affected
Itching may be severe in some patients
Causes: Infections, medications, some foods, blood transfusion, plants/pollen, stings etc.
Some Laboratory investigations may be needed to confirm the presence of infections
In some patients swelling of lips, eyes and mouth along with difficulty in breathing is reported
Sometimes, patients may need to visit hospital emergency rooms for management
Treatment: removal of triggering agent ( Infections, medications, some foods, blood transfusion, plants/pollen, stings) + advise by your doctor
Eczema is inflammation of the skin
Skin may become red, scaly, itchy, cracked, thickened. Fluid may ooze and your skin my show blistering.
Causes: certain “irritants” & “allergens” my trigger eczema
Common irritants: metals, jewellary, soaps, shampoos, fragrances, cosmetic products, chemicals, latex, dry skin, woolen clothes etc
Common allergens: pollen, dust mites, cow milk, eggs, pets, peanuts, fish, gluten etc
Prolonged eczema may spread to distant sites of skin
Treatment is usually not difficult, but recurrence is common
Identification and removal of the triggering agent (irritant or allergen) is very helpful in treatment; although quite difficult to achieve
Skin appears dry, red and raised, covered with scales that are silver-colored
Affected skin sites may become tender and itchy
The skin of scalp, elbows, lower back and knees is most commonly affected
Nails, tongue and joints may also become affected
Sometimes the whole skin becomes inflammed (erythrodermic psoriasis)
Cause: Immune system problem. Skin starts to regerate at a much higher rate than normal. As a result, dead cells start to accumulate over the skin forming scales and plaques
Genetics: 14% chance of acquiring this condition if one parent has the disease; 41% chance if both parents have psoriasis
Treatment: mild cases are easily managed by topical preperations. Severe cases demand expert opinion by dermatologists.
Skin appears dry with rough patches and tiny bumps (skin-colored or red)
Mostly affects individuals of younger age
More commonly seen in winters
The skin of cheeks, upper arms (outer aspects), buttocks and thighs is most commonly affected
Cause: Abnormal keratinisation causes the scale to fill the lining of hair follicle, instead of exfoliating
Usually a harmless condition
The condition can be managed by certain topical preperations and laser hair removal; no cure available so far.