With the weather turning worse these days, many people in the Northeast experience an eczema commonly referred to as “winter itch”. It is usually caused by environmental conditions both indoors and outdoors, and especially from dryness in the air. People who have had allergies or eczema in the past are more prone to being affected by this condition. If you think you are getting winter itch, start to address it by ensuring you are using mainly “sensitive skin” products (cleansers/laundry detergents) and moisturizing your skin well. A variety of over the counter anti-itch creams and baths can improve symptoms as well. Consider putting a humidifier in the house. If the problem still persists come in for an office visit; there are prescriptions remedies we can offer when simple home remedies are not effective.
Molluscum contagiosum is a common skin condition caused by a contagious virus. People usually get it by skin-on-skin contact but sharing of objects like towels can also spread the virus. Molluscum is typically found in children, although it is possible for adults to get the disease as well. The virus produces small, often numerous, pimple-like lesions on the skin. The infection is only on the surface of the skin—it does not go inside the body or into the blood. Lesions can be itchy and can bleed or get infected, especially if they are picked at. Spots are not thought to be dangerous but can be unsightly and troublesome to patients and their families.
There are three main categories of treatment options for molluscum. The first is “watchful waiting”. Molluscum lesions generally resolve on their own over time so it is not necessarily urgent to do anything immediately. Unfortunately waiting for the body’s healing mechanisms to kick in and cure the lesions can take months or even years. During that time the molluscum can spread. Some patients who delay treatment wind up with numerous, widespread molluscum. These individuals often regret not treating when there were fewer lesions.
The two other types of treatment are topical therapies with different creams and destruction of individual lesions by either freezing, scraping, or caustic/blistering agents. Treating molluscum can often be a frustrating process for pateints. There is no cream or topical agent (either by prescription or over-the-counter) that is perfectly successful. Often treatment with creams requires a trial-and-error approach. Destroying lesions one by one is usually successful if a patient sticks with it. The downsides of this treatment are the pain associated with the therapy itself and the possibility that more than one visit may be required to get rid of all the lesions.
Severe excessive sweating, called hyperhidrosis, can be an embarrassing and even disabling condition that affects both men and women. Sweat is a normal function of the skin but hyperhidrosis refers to sweating that is not responsive to over-the-counter (OTC) antiperspirants and is so excessive that it requires frequent daily clothing changes and affects a person’s enjoyment of life and ability to perform their normal daily activities.
There are several treatments available for patients with hyperhidrosis. Prescription topical antiperspirants have more power than their OTC counterparts and often help affected patients. They are typically a good starting point for new patients. Doctors also prescribe pills that can help excessive sweating, although they may have some other side effects like dry mouth, dry eyes and blurry vision. Finally, injecting botulinum toxin (Botox) can produce impressive decreases in sweat production when injected into affected areas.
Uncommonly but importantly, hyperhidrosis can be a sign of other diseases, most notably thyroid disease. If you go to the doctor for hyperhidrosis, they may order a blood test for thyroid disease, especially if you have any other associated sign or symptoms.
A good resource for learning more about this condition is the International Hyperhidrosis Society website: http://www.sweathelp.org/en/home/defining-hyperhidrosis.html.
Moles (also called nevi) are very common. It has been estimated that the average person has 10-40 moles. Moles are not bad in and of themselves but when they turn into cancer, they can have very serious and dangerous consequences. This type of cancer is called melanoma. Although melanomas can certainly be cured, especially if caught in the early stages, they can potentially spread throughout the body and even be fatal if not treated properly.
A good rule of thumb for examining your moles is the ABCDE rule.
Asymmetry: When you fold a mole in half it should be the same on both sides,
Border: The edges of a mole should not be irregular, scalloped or poorly defined
Color: The color should be regular; often tan or brown but not black or multicolored
Diameter: Melanomas are often, but not always larger than 6 mm (the size of a pencil eraser)
Evolving: Moles that change are more concerning especially if they are developing any of the other ABCD characteristics
So what can you do? To prevent moles from turning into cancer it is important to protect yourself from the sun: wear sunscreen, avoid high intensity direct sunlight, wear sun protective clothing, and do not use indoor tanning salons. Skin examinations once or twice a year are the best way to find cancerous moles at early stages, before they progress into later stage disease that can have more serious consequences.
At Brookside Dermatology Associates we are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer. If you have any questions or concerns about spots on your skin come in for an evaluation.