Skin rashes: all the info you need

Whether your skin rash is a long-term condition or something that has sprung up out of the blue, it is wise to have an idea of what it might be before you head off to the doctor for treatment. It may be nothing at all; a reaction to something in your environment; the result of sun exposure; a serious condition such as melanoma or a chronic condition that needs a long-term plan. So exactly what is a rash? Our list of possible skin rashes, their causes and treatments will hopefully put your mind at rest.

What is a rash?

This is a term that covers any change in skin color or texture. A rash can be itchy or feel normal, raised or flat, under the skin or above the skin, red, brown or with little color. A rash can come and go within minutes or hours or may last a lifetime with varying levels of intensity. It can be caused by an outside environmental factor or simply be an inflammation response to something that is happening inside your body.

The most common rashes include:


If your skin is itchy, red, dry and inflamed, there is a very good chance you have a form of eczema. This condition isn’t contagious and can occur in adults and children. In some cases, you may simply be born with it and in others, it can be associated with allergies from soaps and washing powders (known as Contact Eczema) or from foods. The most common form of eczema is Atopic Ezcema which is thought to be an abnormal immune response from your body, but it is often outgrown if it occurs in young children. Eczema is sometimes referred to as dermatitis.

Granuloma annulare

The way to identify this skin rash is by its distinctive circular-shaped rash and red or purple bumps. The bumps are sometimes raised and firm or they can be flat and they may itch just a little. This condition occurs more often in children and young adults and affects women more often than men.

Doctors aren’t sure what causes granuloma annulare, but it is associated with diabetes and thyroid disease. Doctors also aren’t sure how to treat this rash, but steroid creams and light therapy using PUVA may help for widespread conditions.

Lichen Planus

Usually affecting adults over the age of 40, Lichen Planus is identified by its scaly, shiny reddish-purple bumps that can be found anywhere on the skin. The rash can be as large as 5cm across and can even cause hair loss when the scalp is affected. In most cases, this rash will clear on its own after 6-9 months, but there may be some hyperpigmentation left over for some months afterward.

Licehn Planus is thought to be associated with the immune system and the use of some arthritis medicines. The itching can be helped with antihistamines or steroid creams but it cannot be cured.


For sufferers of Polymorpic Light Eruption, just 20 minutes of exposure to sunlight can cause a rash of blisters, bumps, and redness. This is very common and can affect around 10% of the population and it is thought that an immune response to sunlight is to blame. It affects those parts of the skin that do not get regular exposure to sunlight or that have been covered over the winter. This affects fair people more than dark-skinned people. This rash will settle after a few hours or days.

If you have any rash on your skin that is worrying you, it is important you get it checked out. Especially if it involves changing the skin around moles which could relate to skin cancer.

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