Skin

Not all types of skin diseases are of serious nature. Nevertheless, when they are visible, they may prove to be distressing. These skin disorders include inflammation, infection and irritation, parasite infestations as well as changes in the texture and structure of the skin, for instance acne and psoriasis.

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Antipruritic medications

Pruritus is basically itchiness of the skin - a skin irritation that urges one to scratch. Most possibly, this condition occurs due to alterations in the chemicals in the skin and is attributed to inflammation, allergy, diseases or the skin coming in contact with substances that cause irritations. The tolerance levels of different people to itching differ. Moreover, the threshold of an individual may be changed due to stress as well as other psychological issues.

Several types of skin disorders are commonly accompanied by itching, such as allergic conditions like hives (urticaria) and eczema. Parasite infestation or local fungal infections may also cause pruritus. In addition, health disorders such as psoriasis and chicken pox are also likely to cause itching. Sometimes, jaundice, diabetes mellitus and kidney failure too may be accompanied by itching.

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In several instances, even dry skin may cause generalized itching. However, if you have itching in specific body areas, it signifies that you may be suffering from other health disorders. For instance, pruritus ani (itching in the region of the anus) is an indication that you may be suffering from haemorrhoids or have a worm infestation in that part of the body. In women, genital itching (known as pruritus vulvae) may be attributed to vaginal infections, while if it occurs in older women, it may indicate a deficiency of a specific hormone.

While scratching offers a temporary respite from itching, usually it augments inflammation of the skin in the area and, hence, is likely to worsen the condition further. In a number of instances, when you continue scratching an area where the skin is irritated, it may possibly result in a vicious circle or chain reaction of itching and scratching, which may carry on for a long period even after the underlying cause of the problem has been cured.

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Many different kinds of medications are employed to alleviate skin irritation. Some of these medications comprise calming or comforting preparations that are applied topically to the affected skin area, while there are other medications that are taken orally. The main antipruritic medications that are used to treat itching comprise antihistamines, local anesthetics, and corticosteroids. Physicians often recommend the use of simple cooling creams and emollients as well as ointments without any active ingredient to treat itching.

However, use of these medications, except soothing preparations and plain emollients, is accompanied with some risks. Prolonged use of these medications or using them in excess is likely to result in skin irritation and, in this way, are likely to worsen skin irritation. Locally used anesthetic creams and antihistamines may especially irritate the skin or even result in allergic reactions. Discontinue the medications in case their result in further deterioration of the condition or cause allergic reactions. On the other hand, antihistamines that are taken orally to alleviate itching may lead to sleepiness.

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As itching may be a symptom of several basic health conditions, you should never continue self-treatment for more than a week. Check with a physician right away in case the problem persists or deteriorates further.

Topical corticosteroids

Corticosteroids medications are commonly also known as steroids. These medications are associated with the hormones that are naturally produced by the adrenal glands in our body. Usually, medications containing corticosteroids are applied externally to the skin to treat a number of skin disorders, especially which are accompanied with inflammation.

Corticosteroid medications work to obstruct inflammation, preventing chemicals from being released. Topical corticosteroid medications are so effective that they improve the condition within a few days of starting treatment with them. Moreover, when these medications are applied topically, corticosteroid medications seldom result in any adverse effects. However, using some potent corticosteroid medications may involve specific health hazards, especially when they are used in elevated concentrations.

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Using potent corticosteroid medications having high concentrations for a prolonged period may often cause the skin to change permanently. Thinning of the skin is the most common adverse effects of using such medications for a long period of time. Occasionally, the use of these medications may also lead to stretch marks, which may turn out to be lasting. When the skin becomes thinner, one may suffer from telangiectasia, a condition wherein the capillaries just beneath the skin turn out to be prominent. They may even damage the blood vessels, leading to formation of reddish rash under the skin. As the facial skin is extremely susceptible to such damages, you should always use weak corticosteroid medications. In fact, this is the reason why many physicians usually avoid prescribing topical corticosteroid medications for application on the face. Sometimes, people with dark complexion may experience a temporary lessening in pigmentation on the skin area where they apply potent corticosteroid medications.

Using potent corticosteroid medications over a long period of time and discontinuing the treatment all of a sudden may cause the skin to become red - a condition known as "rebound erythroderma." However, you can avoid developing this condition by reducing the dose of the medication gradually. It has also been found that the use of corticosteroids repress the immune system of our body, thereby augmenting the chances of being affected by infections. This is the primary reason why potent corticosteroid medications are never used individually to treat inflamed skin due to fungal or bacterial infections. Nevertheless, occasionally these medications may also be incorporated in preparations meant for topical applications, which also enclose an antifungal agent or antibiotic medications.

Anti-infective skin preparations

It is worth mentioning that our skin is the first defence of the body against all types of infections. Despite this, the skin may also be infected, particularly when the epidermis (out layer of the skin) is damaged due to an insect bite, cuts, burn injuries, scrapes or any condition that causes skin inflammation, for instance, dermatitis or eczema. The skin may be affected by many different microbes, including bacteria, fungi, viruses and yeasts.

A number of creams and lotions containing antibiotics are available over-the-counter too. However, physicians never encourage people to use these medical preparations, especially for self-medications, as they may promote the development of bacteria strains that possess resistance to medications. The risk is more when you use a wrong medication. In case you think that a skin condition or a wound has become infected, check with you physician right away and strictly follow the instructions of your physician regarding the use of the medication, especially the duration of the treatment. Continue using the medication as per your physician's recommendations even if you think that the infection has been cleared.

Moreover use of any antibiotic medical preparation that is used topically may cause skin irritation or even lead to allergic reactions. Sometimes, skin irritation may even be a result of any inactive ingredient of the medical preparation. In fact, it is more likely that the antibiotic medications present in the preparations may be responsible for the inflammation/ reddening and swelling of the skin. Contact your physician immediately if you notice any such side effect. It is possible that your physician may prescribe a substitute medication or altogether different medicine.

Medicaments to treat parasites

The most common parasites that thrive on the skin are lice and mites. Infestation of mites may result in a skin condition called scabies. Mites actually penetrate our skin and lay eggs, leading to severe itching. When you scratch the affected skin areas, it causes bleeding as well as scab formation. Moreover, it also augments the hazards of getting an infection.

On the other hand, three forms of lice are found and each of these infests different parts of our body - the body (or clothes) louse, head louse, and crab louse. The last type usually swarms the pubic regions, but sometimes it is also found on other body areas having hair, for instance, the eyebrows. It is worth mentioning here that all types of lice cause the skin to itch and they lay eggs (also called nits). These nits have an appearance akin to that of white grains and are stick to hairs.

Lice as well as mites pass on to one's body when he/ she comes in direct contact with anyone who is already infected by these parasites. Pubic lice usually pass on during sexual intercourse, while body lice transmit when one is exposed to infected clothing or bedding.

Insecticides are the most common medications that are used to get rid of parasites infesting the skin. These insecticides not only kill the adult insects, but also the nits. The main medicines used to treat these parasites include lindane and permethrin (for treating louse infections as well as scabies), and crotamiton (only for treating scabies). In addition, physicians also prescribe a combination of piperonyl butoxide (only for treating louse infestation) and pyrethrins.

Invasion by scabies is generally treated using a topical preparation that contains crotamiton, lindane, or permethrin. These medications should essentially be used according to the instructions on the product leaflet.

Generally, one or two therapies are enough to get rid of the mites responsible for scabies, but the itching associated with this condition may remain even after eliminating the mite. Hence, you may require using a medicament enclosing any anti-pruritic medication or a soothing lotion to alleviate the problem. Moreover, it is essential for individuals who come in skin-to-skin contact with people suffering from scabies, such as family members and sexual partners, to undergo therapy using anti-parasitic medications simultaneously.

Infestation of lice on the head as well as the pubic area can generally be treated by applying medical preparations meant for eliminating these parasites and rinsing of the area with cold water or as directed in the product leaflet. In case your skin also gets infected due to scratching the affected area, your physician may prescribe any topical antibiotic medication.

Nearly all medications that are prescribed for treating parasite infestations may result in irritation as well as stinging, which may turn out to be intense in case the preparation accidentally comes in contact with the mouth, eyes or any moist membrane. Hence, it is advised that you should exercise caution while applying these preparations to the affected body areas. As the anti-parasitic medications are applied externally, they rarely have any generalized side effect. However, it is important that you should be careful not to apply these medications too frequently and use them only as per the directions of your physician. In addition, you should also ensure that you always store these preparations in a place that is beyond the reach of children as well as pets.

Medicaments to treat acne

In medical terminology, acne is known as acne vulgaris. It is a widespread health condition attributed to too much sebum (natural oil produced by the skin) production, which congests the hair follicles. While adolescents are mainly affected by acne, this problem may occur to people of any age. A number of factors, including hot and humid weather conditions, coming in contact with industrial chemicals, taking specific medications and using oily cosmetics, may be responsible for this condition.

Acne mainly affects the facial skin, in addition to the skin on the chest, neck, and back. The main symptoms associated with this condition includes blackheads, pustules (elevated spots that are filled with pus and have a white center) and inflamed spots known as papules. People suffering from mild cases of acne may only endure blackheads and at times have pustule or papule. On the other hand, people with moderate acne have more pustules as well as papules. People suffering from acute acne will experience excruciating, inflamed cysts, which may occasionally result in scarring and pitting of the skin.

Medications used for treating acne may be classified into two categories - topical medications that are applied externally to the affected area on the skin, and systemic medications that are taken orally.

Different medications used for treating acne act differently. While some medications have a keratolytic impact, loosening the dead cells and getting rid of them from the surface of the skin, there are other medicines that neutralize the activity of bacteria infested in the skin. And there are many other preparations that lessen the production of sebum.

Anti-acne medications that are used externally contain various elements, including salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide and sulfur. The effect of all these medications is keratolytic. In fact, sulfur and benzoyl peroxide also have an antibacterial action. On the other hand, antibiotics that are applied externally or taken by mouth also work to reduce the action of bacteria. Their action on the skin may be directly anti-inflammatory. Medications like isotretinoin also help to lessen sebum production, pacify the skin inflammation and also facilitate to decongest the hair follicles.

Medical preparations that have keratolytic effects usually lead to painful skin, particularly when the treatment is started. In case, the soreness persists, your physician may prescribe another less potent medication. Use of antibiotics, however, does not cause any commonplace adverse effects. On the other hand, treatment using isotretinoin generally results in the skin becoming dry and also causes scalding, especially on the lips. In addition, it is also likely that it will cause itchiness of the skin and result in some hair loss.

In rare instances, antibiotics meant for external application may possibly trigger an allergic reaction and if this happens you should stop the treatment and consult your physician immediately. Tetracyclines are antibiotics that are most widely used to treat acne. However, pregnant women ought to avoid these medications, as they may cause the teeth of the developing baby (fetus) to become discoloured. Similarly, the use of isotretinoin may also augment the presence of fat in the bloodstream. What is even more serious, is that if this medication is taken by pregnant women, it may adversely affect the developing baby and cause major abnormalities. In addition, women using isotretinoin should ensure that they are using contraceptives that are really effective.

Medicaments for psoriasis

Our skin is undergoing a continuous regeneration. When the cells in the epidermis (outer layer) die, they are shed and immediately changed with new cells lying at the bottom of the epidermis. Psoriasis is a skin condition that occurs when new cells are produced at a rapid pace, while the old cells are shed in the normal pace. Consequently, there is a build-up of live or new cells and this result in patches of thickened, inflamed skin swathed by scales having a silvery hue. In a number of instances, the affected area on the skin is extensive and it is responsible for physical uneasiness as well as embarrassment. Sometimes, psoriasis may occur together with arthritis, wherein the joints become distended and agonizing.

Scientists as well as medical practitioners are yet to discover the basic causes of psoriasis. Generally, this condition initially occurs in people who are between 10 and 30 years of age and keeps on returning all through their life. Several factors, including physical ailments, skin damage, and emotional stress may be responsible for the occurrence of psoriasis. In addition, psoriasis may also occur as a side effect of discontinuing corticosteroid medications.

As of today, psoriasis cannot be cured completely. However, taking some measures like using ultraviolet lamp or sunbathing carefully may aid in clearing mild psoriasis. In addition, topical application of any remedial or softening cream may sometimes help to alleviate irritation accompanying this painful condition. Additional medications may be necessary if the above measures are not effective in providing relief.

Specific medications like anthralin, methotrexate and etretinate help to inhibit the epidermal cells from multiplying rapidly. In fact, rapid cell division also causes the epidermis to become thick. In addition, etretinate and acitretin also work to lessen keratin production. For the uninitiated, keratin is a solid protein that constitutes the outer skin layer or epidermis. Use of coal tar and salicylic acid also helps to get rid of the dead cell layers on the surface of the skin, while corticosteroids decrease inflammation of the skin layer below the epidermis.

Provided the treatment is appropriate, it will help to improve the skin's appearance. Nevertheless, psoriasis has a tendency to recur even after the treatment has been successful, because no medication available possesses the aptitude to cure the basic causes of this skin condition.

Using individual medications may lead to adverse effects. In fact, medications meant for external use may even lead to inflammation and stinging, particularly when these medications are applied to typical skin. Use of methoxsalen and coal tar makes the skin more susceptible to sunlight. Similarly, too much sunbathing as well as extreme exposure to synthetic ultraviolet (UV) light may harm the skin, in addition to make the condition worse.

If women take medications like etretinate and acitretin during pregnancy they may also have a detrimental for the development of the fetus. Women who take these drugs should essentially use contraceptives that are really effective. Both these medications may also have a detrimental effect on the liver. Use of methotrexate may also lead to gastrointestinal disorders and, at the same time, damage the bone marrow. When people discontinue using topical corticosteroids, it may also lead to rebound degeneration of psoriasis.

Sunscreens

Basically, sunscreens are chemical formulations available in the form of lotions, creams or oils and they work to shield the skin from the detrimental effects of the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation. In fact, the sensitivity of different people to sunlight varies. Generally, fair-complexioned people are more vulnerable to direct sunlight and have a tendency to burn more easily compared to people with dark complexions. In fact, the skin of dark complexioned people generally possesses the aptitude to endure direct sunlight for longer periods and still do not suffer any visible damage.

In some instances, diseases like herpes simplex infection or pellagra (a type of malnutrition mainly attributed to niacin deficiency) may make the skin more sensitive to the sun. In addition, use of specific medicines like sulphonamide antibacterials, thiazide diuretics, quinolone, phenothiazine anti-psychotics and tetracycline antibiotics, as well as coal tar and psoralens may augment the sensitivity of the skin to the sun.

Sunlight comprises dissimilar electromagnetic radiation wavelengths. Among all these electromagnetic wavelengths, ultraviolet (UV) radiation is especially detrimental for the skin. Chemicals present in different sunscreens take up ultraviolet radiation, thereby making certain that the skin only comes in contact with a little part of this harmful substance.

However, sunscreens only have a limited effect, as they just act as a physical barricade for the ultraviolet radiation to reach the skin. Sunscreens do not possess the aptitude to change the skin or make the skin further sunlight resistant. Hence, it is essential for an individual to apply a sunscreen lotion more often to continue protecting the skin.

Moreover, no sunscreen lotion blocks off the sun's radiation completely. Sunscreens with maximum blocking effect only create a partial barrier for sunlight. Hence, fair-complexioned people or those who are highly sensitive to the sun's radiation should take care that they do not expose themselves to sunlight directly even after applying a sunscreen lotion.

It is important to note that use of sunscreens may also cause skin irritations and a few of them may even result in allergic reactions. Individuals who are susceptible to medications like benzocaine and procaine, sulphonamides and specific hair dyes may suffer from skin rash after applying therapeutic preparations that enclose benzophenones like oxybenzone or para-aminobenzoic acid, also known as PABA.

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