Your skin is the large organ that covers and protects your body. Skin diseases are conditions that affect your skin. These diseases may cause rashes, itchiness or other skin changes. Some skin problems may be genetic, while lifestyle factors may cause others. Skin disease treatment may include medications, creams or ointments, or lifestyle changes. 

Common types

Some skin diseases are minor. Others cause severe symptoms. Some of the most common skin diseases include:

  • Acne, blocked skin follicles that lead to oil, bacteria and dead skin buildup in your pores.
  • Alopecia areata, losing your hair in small patches.
  • Atopic dermatitis (eczema), dry, itchy skin that leads to swelling, cracking or scaliness.
  • Psoriasis, scaly skin that may swell or feel hot.
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon, periodic reduced blood flow to your fingers, toes or other body parts, causing numbness or skin color change.
  • Rosacea, flushed, thick skin and pimples, usually on the face.
  • Skin cancer, uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells.
  • Vitiligo, patches of skin that lose pigment.

Certain lifestyle factors can lead to the development of a skin disease. Underlying health conditions may affect your skin, too. Also, some health conditions can increase your chances of developing a skin disease. 

You may be more likely to experience skin changes or symptoms if you have:

  • Diabetes: People with diabetes may have trouble with wound healing, particularly on their feet.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): Some IBD medications can lead to skin problems such as vitiligo or eczema.
  • Lupus: This chronic condition can lead to inflammation and skin problems, such as rashes, sores or scaly skin patches.

Skin changes can also be the result of pregnancy, stress or hormonal changes. For example, melasma is a common skin disease that mostly affects pregnant women. Conditions like acne or rosacea may get worse when you’re stressed.

Common causes of skin diseases include:

  • Conditions that affect your immune system
  • Contact with environmental triggers, such as allergens
  • Genetics
  • Fungus or parasites
  • Medications
  • Bacteria
  • Viruses
  • Sun

Common signs/symptoms

Skin problem symptoms vary significantly, depending on what condition you have. Skin changes are not always due to skin diseases. However, when skin changes show up with no known cause, they may be linked to an underlying condition.

Generally, skin problems may cause:

  • Discolored skin patches (abnormal pigmentation)
  • Dry skin
  • Open sores, lesions or ulcers
  • Peeling skin
  • Rashes, possibly with itchiness or pain
  • Red, white or pus-filled bumps
  • Scaly or rough skin


Often, a healthcare provider can diagnose a skin disease by visually examining your skin. If looking at your skin doesn’t provide clear answers, your provider may use tests such as:

  • Biopsy, removing a small piece of skin to examine under a microscope.
  • Culture, taking a skin sample to test for bacteria, fungus or viruses.
  • Skin patch test, applying small amounts of substances to test for allergic reactions.
  • Black light examination (Wood light test), using an ultraviolet (UV) light to view your skin’s pigment more clearly.
  • Diascopy, pressing a microscope slide against a skin patch to see if the skin changes color.
  • Dermoscopy, using a hand-held device called a dermatoscope to diagnose skin lesions.
  • Tzanck test, examining the fluid from a blister to check for herpes simplex or herpes zoster.


Many skin diseases respond well to treatment. Depending on the condition, a dermatologist or other healthcare provider may recommend:

  • Antibiotics
  • Laser skin resurfacing
  • Medicated creams, ointments or gels
  • Moisturizers
  • Oral medications
  • Steroid pills, creams or injections
  • Surgical procedures


You may also reduce symptoms of skin conditions by making lifestyle changes:

  • Avoid or limit certain foods, such as sugar or dairy
  • Manage stress
  • Practice good hygiene, including proper skin care
  • Avoid excessive alcohol use and smoking

How to prevent

Some skin diseases are not preventable. For example, there is no way to change your genetics or prevent an autoimmune disorder.

You can take steps to avoid contagious or infectious skin diseases. You may prevent contagious skin diseases or reduce their symptoms if you:

  • Avoid sharing utensils, personal items or cosmetics.
  • Disinfect objects you use in public spaces, such as gym equipment.
  • Drink plenty of water and eat a nutritious diet.
  • Limit contact with irritants or harsh chemicals.
  • Sleep seven to eight hours per night.
  • Use sun protection to prevent sunburn and other sun damage.
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water.



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