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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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.