Any modification in the normal features of the skin is considered to be a skin lesion. These can vary in size from small to very large and can emerge in any area of the body. There are many types of skin lesions, they can occur single or in groups and sometimes they affect just specific zones of skin. Any change in the normal skin characteristics is a lesion, the most common are discolorations, pus-filled sacs, blisters, rashes, cysts, bumps or areas where the skin is hardened or swollen. There are many causes of lesions and their severity varies from minor wounds to potentially lethal skin cancer.
Skin lesions can appear for many different reasons. Since the skin is always exposed to the elements, the most common causes of harm are scrapes, cuts or bruises. Age is also a factor, the skin of teenagers can be affected by acne, while elder people have their skin discolored or covered with moles and freckles. Skin lesions can also be caused by allergic reactions that lead to redness or itching, while many infections lead to rashes. Chronic diseases like autoimmune problems or diabetes also have an effect on the skin. Local infections of the skin or follicles, such as boils, can also cause skin lesions. Actinic keratosis, warts and moles are other widely encountered skin conditions.
Skin moles are usually circular and small, with a diameter under a quarter of an inch. They normally have a darker color than the rest of the skin and can even be brown or black. Other types of skin lesions can also have diverse symptoms such as pus, release of other fluids or bleeding. Lesions can increase in time, they can have visible blood vessels or they can be covered by a crust or smaller scales.
Sometimes, a skin biopsy is required in order to establish the diagnostics and severity of skin lesions. Depending on the results, the doctor can choose the appropriate treatment.
The human skin consists of three principal layers. The skin structure is important for the understanding of skin lesions. The top layer of the skin is named the epidermis and is rather thin. It can be further divided into five smaller layers. The exterior one consists of a superficial coverage of flat cells and dead ones, which are renewed twice per month. The thickness of the epidermis is variable, being the thickest on the soles and very thin in areas such as the ears.
The middle layer is the dermis. It consists of the structures needed for the operation and maintenance of the skin, like blood vessels, nerves, sweat glands or hair roots. It varies in thickness and density of structures. The dermis is made of collagen, a type of connective tissue, and is divided in two layers.
The third and deepest layer of the skin is the subcutaneous layer. It consists of a combination of fat and connective tissues and contains both blood vessels and nerves.
Normal moles have a number of features that distinguish them from more serious skin lesions. Moles are small, with a maximum diameter of 6 mm, and have a dark color that can be tan, brown or black. They are round or oval and the edges are regular. Another important characteristic is the symmetric shape, with two equal sides.
The more dangerous and abnormal lesions have different or opposite characteristics. Moles can be serious if their color or shape changes or if they have a larger diameter than a quarter of an inch. Abnormal skin lumps have more than one color, irregular borders, an asymmetrical shape, they can grow in size or change their shape in time or they might start bleeding or oozing fluid from cracks. New skin bumps or lumps should always be investigated, especially if they have a high relief compared to the skin around them. A bad sign is if the two sides of a lesion don't look the same. Other possibly serious lesions are the ones with visible blood vessels, covered with scales or crusts, the ones that ooze liquids and the ones that don't heal after a long time.
The treatment of a skin lesion depends on its type and severity. Some common treatments for skin lesions are corticosteroid drugs, surgery, topical medications, laser therapy, freezing the area or a combination of these methods.
The treatment options for lesions are selected by a medical professional. Common drugs used in such cases include anti-inflammatory agents that are not steroids, such as naproxen, ketoprofen or the widespread ibuprofen. Also common are oral corticosteroids like medrol or prednisone, as well as aristocort, valisone or triamcinolone, which are topical corticosteroid drugs. Antibiotics are also a common cure, if the cause is a skin infection.
Surgery is performed to simply remove the lesion completely from the skin. Lasers are used to burn the lesion, thus neutralizing it. Another option is to freeze the lesion, a procedure known as cryotherapy.
In order to prevent the appearance of skin lesions or stop it from growing, there are a number of precautions that you can take. Many lesions are caused by sun exposure, which can be very dangerous. Whenever you know that you will stay a lot in the sun, prepare yourself for it. Proper clothing is needed to protect the skin from sunlight and sunscreen should be applied freely on any exposed skin area.
Even if you can't visit a dermatologist regularly, it is a good idea to monitor your skin and look for any unusual lesions or signs of skin cancer. If you notice new lesions or if some of your old ones increase in size or have a different shape or color, go to a doctor right away. Toxic chemicals are also dangerous for the skin and should be avoided at all costs.