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Are Skin Diseases Contagious?

Skin diseases can be contagious or noncontagious and it is sometimes difficult to tell which condition you have from the symptoms. There are successful treatment options for both contagious and noncontagious skin diseases and a qualified Consultant Dermatologist can expertly diagnose and treat the condition for you.  

What makes a skin disease contagious?

A skin disease is contagious when it can be easily transmitted through contact with other people. There are five infectious agents that make a skin disease contagious: viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa and parasites such as worms. The disease spreads when these agents move from one host and begin to replicate inside another one.

“Skin diseases can be contagious or noncontagious and it is sometimes difficult to tell which condition you have from the symptoms.”

Contagious Skin Diseases

Impetigo 

Impetigo is a common skin infection that may cause sores, blisters and scabs, usually around the mouth and nose. It is caused by bacteria entering the skin through a cut or open wound and it can be spread to others through direct contact with the infected area. Impetigo can be caught at any age but is very common in small children. A Dermatologist will give your child antibiotics which are usually able to clear it up within 7-10 days but bear in mind that they will be contagious until the infection is gone.

Molluscum contagiosum 

Molluscum contagiosum is a viral skin infection that can occur at any age, although it usually affects children. It’s caused by a virus which is spread through contact: directly touching someone infected with the virus, touching objects contaminated with the virus and sexual contact. Typically, the only symptom is the appearance of painless but itchy spots in clusters that start to spread around the body. These spots typically appear in the armpit, behind the knees or on the groin and are often identified by the characteristic dimple in the middle of them. If you decide to seek treatment for molluscum contagiosum, your Dermatologist will typically treat the infection by giving you a gel or cream to apply to the affected areas. They can also remove the spots through cryotherapy (freezing treatment) or minor surgery.

Scabies

Scabies is a highly contagious condition caused by tiny mites that lay eggs in the skin. The first sign of scabies is an extreme itchiness which gets worse at night and often begins between the fingers, although it can occur anywhere on the body. It can be easy to identify visually from its distinct appearance: a raised line across the skin with a dot at one end, followed by a rash that spreads across the body and turns into small red spots. Scabies is easily spread through direct contact with the skin so it needs to be treated as soon as possible. Your Dermatologist will give you a cream to apply over your whole body, to be repeated within one week.

Ringworm 

Ringworm is a fungal infection – not a worm – that can be spread through direct contact with infected people, animals and objects which have been touched by an infected person. The main symptom of ringworm is a red or silver rash that’s scaly, dry, swollen or itchy and can appear anywhere on the body. If it appears on your scalp, it’s possible to lose hair on the affected area. Your Dermatologist can clear up the infection by giving you antifungal medication to kill the fungus in your body. This might include cream, tablets or shampoo if the ringworm is on your scalp.

Fungal infections 

Fungal infections are a broad term for a range of different skin diseases including athlete’s foot and yeast infection. They can be contracted in a variety of ways, such as direct contact with an infected object or by breathing in with fungal spores. Fungal infections usually grow best in slightly acidic environments, which is why they are often found on damp surfaces like the area around a swimming pool or shower. Your Dermatologist can treat most fungal infections with antifungal medicines, including creams and tablets.

Non-contagious Skin Conditions

Many skin conditions are non-contagious but still need medical attention. If you’re experiencing signs and symptoms of a skin condition, the safest option is to see a Dermatologist for a check-up.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a non-contagious chronic disease that causes red patches covered with silvery scales to appear on the skin. It’s thought to be caused by a problem with the immune system. People with psoriasis make and replace skin cells much more quickly than normal, reducing the process from the usual 3-4 weeks to just 3-7 days. This quick build-up of skin cells is what creates the patches on the skin. In most cases, your psoriasis symptoms will be mild until something triggers a flare-up, with the triggers varying from person to person. To identify your triggers and the specific type of psoriasis you’re experiencing, your Dermatologist will take a detailed history and examine your skin. This will help them decide on the best treatment, such as topical creams or phototherapy.

Hives

Hives are either a rash or a number of itchy red spots that can appear anywhere on the skin at any age. It’s not contagious but it can be very itchy, sore and uncomfortable. It’s not always possible to prevent hives appearing: they are caused by a wide range of triggers including food allergies, medicine, bug bites and even changes in light or temperature. However, your Dermatologist can give you antihistamines that will help to improve the condition.

Eczema

Eczema is a skin condition characterised by dry, red, itchy and uncomfortable patches. It can occur at any age and on any part of the body, although people with eczema typically have their first symptoms when they’re young – it affects around 20% of all children in the UK. Eczema can be exasperated by a variety of factors, including changes in water softness, strong detergents, smoking, stress and allergies. You Dermatologist can’t cure your eczema, but they can help keep your symptoms to an absolute minimum by giving you the right topical treatments and, in some cases, prescribing tablet medication.

Who should check your skin condition for contagiousness?

It’s important to know that many skin conditions share similar symptoms and are easily confused with each other, so checking the affected area visually is not likely to identify the condition accurately. The most qualified person to determine whether your skin condition is contagious or non-contagious is a Consultant Dermatologist. A qualified professional like a Consultant Dermatologist is the safest choice for identifying and treating your skin condition. You can either refer yourself directly to a reputable Dermatologist or ask a GP to refer you to a Dermatology Clinic.

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Everything you need to know before having a mole removed

Mole removal is a safe and common procedure with thousands of moles removed every year in the UK for both medical and cosmetic reasons. Whatever the reason for having your mole removed, it’s good to be informed, to know why and when removal is best advised and what to expect.

Medical reasons for mole removal

The main reason for removing a mole is when there is a suspicion it may be a skin cancer. The majority of cancerous moles come from new spots: the American Academy of Dermatology states that less than one-third of melanomas come from an existing mole. By removing the mole and an area of normal skin around it, the chances of any cancerous or precancerous cells being left behind are reduced and the chances of preventing further growth are increased.

Cosmetic reasons for mole removal

A mole may be benign (noncancerous), however, you may wish to have a benign mole removed for cosmetic reasons. Perhaps the mole is on an exposed area of your body such as your face, neck arms and hands or another area of your body that causes discomfort or embarrassment. Removing a mole for cosmetic reasons is increasingly common: a 2015 study found the number of British people seeking removal of a benign mole for cosmetic reasons  had increased by 127% in just one year. Scarring from mole removal can vary, however, with todays’ advanced techniques and a skilled surgeon, scarring is generally minimal.

“A 2015 study found the number of British people seeking the removal of a benign mole for cosmetic reasons had increased by 127% in just one year”

Mole Biopsy

Checking your moles often for any visual changes can help you spot risk factors early, but the safest option is to see a Dermatologist for regular check-ups, also known as mole screening. If your Dermatologist wants to check a mole for skin cancer or melanoma, they will perform a biopsy. The mole is removed in a procedure under local anaesthetic. You will be given a local anaesthetic by an injection at the place on your body where the biopsy will be taken from. The local anaesthetic may sting a little when it is injected, however the skin will then go numb and the operation should be pain-free.

The mole is then sent for examination under the microscope by a specialist pathologist who will determine if the mole is malignant or benign.

Methods of mole removal

The most common forms of mole removal are:

 Shave excision

This procedure is best for raised moles that aren’t too deep in your skin.

  • The lesion is scraped or shaved off using a very sharp blade, leaving a graze or small depression in the skin
  • The bleeding is stopped using an electric cautery machine. This procedure does not require stitches
  • A scab will form over the surgery site and may take up to two weeks to fully heal
  • This procedure usually leaves a pink scar which fades into a faint white scar

Excision with stitches

This is for moles that lie flat on the surface.

  •  The entire mole is removed with a small amount of normal skin around the edge.
  • There will be several stitches both above and below the skin surface.
  • The biopsy normally heals as a straight line that is usually three to four times the length of the lesion being removed.

What are the risks of having a skin biopsy?

All treatments and procedures have risks. The risks associated with having a skin biopsy are:

Pain

Local anaesthesia is usually effective for about two hours. The wound often feels tender after this time. Paracetamol tablets may be taken for pain relief as directed.

Bleeding

It is normal for a small amount of blood to come through the dressing. Any heavier bleeding can be stopped by applying firm pressure to the dressing for 15 minutes. If bleeding continues, you need to seek medical assistance.

If you have a large swelling under the wound, you may have had a more significant bleed. Any large swelling after surgery needs medical attention quickly, so go to your nearest Accident and Emergency department.

Bruising

It is normal to have some bruising around the surgery site, which will settle. The forehead, scalp and eyelids often bruise more easily than other sites.

Infection

Rarely a wound can become infected, and this will show up as increased pain, swelling, discharging pus and redness at the site of the wound 48-72 hours after surgery. If you are concerned that the wound has become infected, you should contact your Doctor. Infections can be treated with antibiotics. It is important that infected wounds are properly examined and treated.

Scarring

You will always have a scar following a skin biopsy as it is impossible to cut the skin without leaving a mark. The aim is always to leave you with the smallest scar that is possible for the procedure. Individuals will vary in the way they heal so not all scars will look the same.

The stitch line is likely to be red initially but this redness fades over a period of weeks to months. You will be left with a permanent scar in the area, the length and width depends of the type on operation performed and can sometimes be larger than the lesion being removed.

Some patients will produce a scar that is thicker than expected; this is called a hypertrophic or keloid scar. Certain areas such as the chest and back are more susceptible to this type of scarring.

Reducing scarring following removal of a mole

Your Dermatologist will provide advice with regards to minimising the risk of scarring and how to protect your skin during the healing process:

  • Minimise sun exposure and where possible avoid sun exposure completely.
  • Keep the area moist and clean. Petroleum jelly under a bandage may reduce scarring while the wound heals. Once the scar tissue has formed, it may be recommended to use a silicone gel or silicone strips for a few hours daily.
  • Once the wound has healed and the scab or crust is gone, you can massage the area gently. This invigorates the skin which stimulates collagen and aids the healing process.
  • In some cases, your Dermatologist may also suggest laser therapy or corticosteroid injections.

Who should remove your mole?

The most qualified person to decide if a mole should be removed is a Consultant Dermatologist. Only a  suitably qualified professional such as a Consultant Dermatologist or Plastic surgeon who specialises in surgical skin procedures should remove a mole. This helps minimise the risk of scarring or anything being missed during the diagnosis and removal stages. Patients can either self refer direct to a reputable Dermatologist or Dermatology Clinic or be referred by their GP.

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A letter to the British Journal of Dermatology

Melanoma is a form of skin cancer. Over the last ten years the management of this condition has changed considerably, and for the better. There are now clear pathways for patients and doctors to follow which improve outcomes. This letter to the editor of the British Journal of Dermatology, by one of our team, Dr Jane Mcgregor,  provides a pertinent update for  the dermatology community. 

Read the letter here >>

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Know Your Skin Type: Know Your Scar

We all know that we should choose beauty products that complement our skin tone, but few of us are aware that our skin type can affect how prone we are to wrinkles and visible signs of ageing, the likeliness of getting acne and even how well our scars heal. In fact, a recent survey commissioned by KELO-COTE®, found that 59% of people are not aware that different skin types (e.g. pigmentation) and particular hair colours are more likely to scar than others.

We spoke to Dr Conal Perrett, Medical Director and leading Consultant Dermatologist at The Devonshire Clinic, to find out how your skin pigmentation type impacts your risk of scarring and how you can best care for your skin:

What is the Fitzpatrick scale?

Dr Perrett explains; “The Fitzpatrick skin types are grouped according to your genetic predisposition to melanin (pigment) found in your skin cells. The scale is widely used by dermatologists and aesthetic practitioners to determine ethnic risk factors to treatments, potential hazards for sunburn, skin cancer, hyperpigmentation and scarring risks. When identifying your skin type, I would suggest looking at the shade of skin not regularly exposed to the sun, such as your stomach, to determine your true skin tone”.

Read the full story here

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Skin Test for Dementia – Dermatologist London

A Skin Test for Dementia Might Be on The Horizon

New research suggests that a simple skin test might be developed in the fairly near future that could help diagnose degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s at a much earlier stage.

“Early diagnosis is essential and it may be that the skin can provide us with the relevant clues to achieve this…,” says Dr Conal Perrett, a leading dermatologist London based with his own practice in the Harley Street district. Here he reviews the latest evidence and looks at the prospects for a future skin test that could spot the earliest signs of dementia.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative disease of the brain that leads to dementia. Like other forms of dementia, it is highly distressing both for those affected and for their families and friends.

One of the problems facing doctors who try to treat it is delay between changes in the brain and central nervous system and the appearance of symptoms.

The first signs of forgetfulness, memory loss and changes in behaviour that are typical of Alzheimer’s are often only recognised when the damage to the nerve cells and brain tissue is quite advanced.

Detecting changes in brain tissue is impossible and Alzheimer’s is diagnosed on the basis of the symptoms that develop and that worsen over time. Diagnosing the disease more accurately and at a much earlier stage might help to delay its progression, giving people a better quality of life for longer.

The latest research on skin and Alzheimer’s

So far, researchers have tried looking for brain biomarkers in the blood to predict which patients might develop Alzheimer’s, but this has proved difficult.

A group in Mexico, at the University of San Luis Potosi, took a different approach. They looked back at the embryo for clues to direct their studies.

Studies of how the tissues of the embryo develop have shown that the brain and the skin are generated from the same clump of early cells. They share a common origin.

Dr Ildefonso Rodriguez-Leyva, who leads the group, thinks that the skin might show some of the same early changes as the brain in Alzheimer’s, other forms of dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

“The skin is a much more accessible tissue than the brain. If a test was possible, dermatologists could play an important role in taking skin biopsy samples for analysis,” adds Dr Perrett.

Looking for protein deposits in the skin

The researchers are convinced they are onto something because the protein deposits that are found in patients with Parkinson’s disease have also been observed in skin samples taken after their death. But no studies until now have looked for changes within the skin of living patients.

Deciding that the evidence was strong enough to justify a small clinical trial, the Mexican group collected together a people with either Parkinson’s disease, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Just a dozen or so of each, plus a dozen healthy people with no signs of brain disease.

A small skin sample was obtained from behind their ear and was examined using powerful microscopes and chemical tests.

Brain tangling proteins discovered in the skin

The results have generated a great deal of excitement among neurologists and dermatologists. They showed that two key proteins were present in much greater quantities in the skin of patients with either Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s compared to those with other forms of dementia, or compared to the healthy people used as controls.

The proteins – tau and alpha synuclein – are known to clump up in the brain and major nerves, causing memory loss and other problems.

“The link between the skin and the brain definitely seems to be worth exploring further,” comments Dr Perrett, Medical Director and lead dermatologist at The Devonshire Clinic. “Analysis of the skin can often provide important insights into diseases affecting other part so of the body as demonstrated by this research into Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease,” he adds.

Looking to the future

Although the results released so far appear to be very promising, a lot more still needs to be done before a test could be used in clinics. Larger clinical trials over a longer period of time are needed.

Hopefully, if things do go well, skin tests might be able to highlight early changes that will predict which people are likely to go on to develop brain disease.

 

Find out more about the medical dermatology services offered by The Devonshire Clinic.