Skin redness or inflammation; Skin lesion; Rubor; Skin rash; Erythema
Rashes involve changes in the color, feeling or texture of your skin.
Often, the cause of a rash can be determined from how it looks and its location and symptoms. Skin testing, such as a scraping or biopsy, may also be used to help with diagnosis. Sometimes, the cause of the rash remains unknown.
A simple rash is called dermatitis, meaning inflammation of the skin. Contact dermatitis is caused by things your skin touches, such as:
Seborrheic dermatitis is a rash that appears in patches of redness and scaling around the eyebrows, eyelids, mouth, nose, trunk, and behind the ears. If it happens on your scalp, it is called dandruff in adults and cradle cap in infants.
Age, stress, fatigue, weather extremes, oily skin, infrequent shampooing, and alcohol-based lotions aggravate this harmless but bothersome condition.
Other common causes of a rash include:
Many medical conditions can cause a rash as well. These include:
Many simple rashes will improve with gentle skin care and by avoiding irritating substances. Follow these general guidelines:
Hydrocortisone cream (1%) is available without a prescription and may soothe many rashes. Stronger hydrocortisone or other steroid creams are available with a prescription. If you have eczema, apply moisturizers over your skin. Try oatmeal bath products, available at drugstores, to relieve symptoms of eczema or psoriasis. Oral antihistamines may help relieve itchy skin.
Call 911 or the local emergency number if:
Contact your health care provider if:
Your provider will perform a physical examination and ask about your medical history and symptoms. Questions may include:
Tests may include:
Depending on the cause of your rash, treatments may include medicated creams or lotions, medicines taken by mouth, or skin surgery.
Many primary care providers are comfortable dealing with common rashes. For more complicated skin disorders, you may need a referral to a dermatologist.
James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM. Cutaneous signs and diagnosis. In: James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM, eds. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 2.
Ko CJ. Approach to skin diseases. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 407.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 11/30/2022
Reviewed By: Ramin Fathi, MD, FAAD, Director, Phoenix Surgical Dermatology Group, Phoenix, AZ. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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