Recognizing 5 Serious Skin Conditions That Need Immediate Care

July 14, 2020

Dermatologist checks patients for serious skin conditions

There are many skin conditions that can be treated safely at home. There are also a large number of benign skin concerns that might be annoying or unattractive, but don’t necessarily require immediate treatment. With all that’s going on in the world currently, you may think it wise to delay an appointment with a dermatologist for these types of skin conditions. But, some skin health issues need the immediate attention of a dermatologist. In the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many of our patients have been postponing non-essential treatments for their own health and safety. However, there are some skin conditions that really do need timely treatment. Knowing the warning signs of more serious skin health issues can save you a lot of time and discomfort down the road. In this blog, you will be walked through the symptoms of common skin conditions that may require a fast response from a dermatologist.

1 – Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is one of the most serious conditions dermatologists treat, and while most forms of skin cancer are slow progressing, the sooner the treatment begins, the better the patient’s prognosis will be. In order to identify skin cancer in its earliest stages, dermatologists really need the help of their patients. By performing regular skin self-exams and visiting the office every year for an annual exam, patients play a significant role in skin cancer prevention and effective treatment planning.

To perform a complete skin cancer self-exam, you should carefully examine your body from head to toe making note of any changes to the color and texture of your skin. Specifically, you should monitor any moles or spots for the ABCDEs of melanoma skin cancer:

  • A – Asymmetry – spots are irregularly shaped or differ on one side
  • B – Border – irregular or undefined edges around a spot
  • C – Color – color is not consistent across the spot or coloring is different than other spots on your body
  • D – Diameter – spots of any size may be cancerous, but anything larger around than a pencil eraser needs to be examined by a dermatologist right away
  • E – Evolving – spots that are changing quickly

There are many different types of skin cancer that all have their own warning signs.

The three most common are:

  • Basal Cell Carcinoma – While it’s rarely life-threatening, basal cell carcinomas can cause permanent skin damage if untreated. These cancerous lesions vary in appearance. They usually look like small moles that are close to your natural flesh-tone, and they may bleed easily.
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma – Developing in the outer layers of skin, squamous cell carcinoma needs to be treated quickly to prevent it from spreading to other parts of the body. These cancerous spots are usually firm and raised from the skin, and can develop on any parts of the body that are repeatedly exposed to sunlight as well as on and inside the mouth and genitals.
  • Melanoma – Nearly 80% of skin cancer-related deaths are caused by melanoma. People who develop melanoma often notice sores that don’t heal, areas of darker pigmentation spreading out from a mole, or quickly growing or changing spots.

2 – Cysts & Boils

Many patients think of cysts and boils as being cosmetically unappealing but otherwise harmless. Other people watch cyst and pimple popping videos on the internet, and wrongly think it’s safe to attempt ‘popping’ these lumps on their own. No matter what you see on YouTube, cysts and boils are serious skin and whole-body health concerns that need to be treated by a dermatologist.

Boils (Skin Abscesses)

Boils are actually abscesses in the skin that are caused by a staphylococcus bacteria (staph) infection. This happens when the staph bacteria becomes trapped inside a hair follicle. A boil may start as a small area of irritation that is red, warm to the touch, or inflamed. Boils are usually very painful. These small bumps often grow rapidly as the body attacks the staph bacteria. You may fall asleep with a small spot of irritation on the skin and wake up with a large bump. Due to the serious risk of staph infection, it’s always best to consult with a dermatologist before attempting any at-home care of a boil. Popping boils is discouraged since the pressure can actually force the infection into surrounding areas, spreading the infection.


Cysts are a common skin condition that may occur for many reasons (spontaneous, injury, infection, clogged pore, etc.), and they can develop on any part of the body. Unlike boils, cysts are usually slow-growing and painless. They can blend into the surrounding skin, but you’ll feel them when pressure is placed over their location. There are many treatment options available from your dermatologist. Like boils, cysts should not be “popped” at home. While you may be able to release some of the built-up debris within the cyst, these bumps are encased in a sac that must be removed. Otherwise, your cyst will simply fill up again and popping it creates an open wound, increasing risk for infection.

3 – Chronic Skin Condition Flareups

Many common skin conditions are triggered by stress, and right now, stress levels are very high. It’s not surprising that patients are calling who have well-managed chronic skin conditions that are suddenly harder to control. Don’t live with the discomfort or wait until things get to be too much to stand. If your chronic skin condition is flared up, call your dermatologist. In many cases, we can make some slight adjustments to your treatment plan that may have a big impact.

Some common skin conditions that may require immediate treatment during an uncontrolled flareup include:

  • Eczema – this condition causes itchiness, redness, and inflammation in the skin. New cases of eczema or atopic dermatitis in children may be especially worrisome at this time, but it’s important for patients of all ages to address eczema flareups as soon as possible.
  • Psoriasis – Plaque psoriasis is the most common form of this chronic skin condition, and under stress, patients may see faster production of the red, thickened skin cells (plaques) that give this form of psoriasis its name. This can be especially problematic if psoriasis develops on your hands, which can make it difficult to follow good handwashing protocols to minimize health risks.
  • Rosacea – This skin condition is usually characterized by redness and inflammation on the face, especially on the cheeks. While most people manage their rosacea symptoms with little discomfort, increased cortisol and adrenaline production caused by stress can lead to more severe flareups and irritation. And, because the condition sometimes affects the eyes, it can adversely impact eyesight. Additionally, frequent mask wear can exacerbate rosacea symptoms, leading to further discomfort.

4 – Acne, Especially Cystic Acne

Anyone with acne will tell you that stress is a common denominator for some of their worst breakouts. Even patients who manage their acne really well will often notice a serious breakout under stress. While these painful, unsightly breakouts may be an annoyance, breakouts of more severe forms of acne, like cystic acne, can seriously impact your skin’s health as well as your overall wellbeing.

The appearance and symptoms of acne will vary from person to person, but if you notice any of the following types of “pimples” suddenly cropping up more than usual, it may be time to consult with your dermatologist:

  • Blackheads – open clogged pore
  • Whiteheads – closed clogged pore
  • Papules – small red bumps
  • Pustules – papules that have pus in their tips
  • Cysts – painful, pus-filled lumps
  • Nodules – hard, painful lumps

5 – Allergic Reactions

People are much more likely to have allergic skin reactions during the summer months when plants, bugs, sunlight, and other common causes of skin allergies are more prevalent. Most skin allergies are minor, like mosquito and ant bites. However, reactions to poison ivy, oak, and sumac can be serious, especially if they impact the face, which can impede vision and breathing. These conditions should be seen by a dermatologist, and even if your allergic reaction isn’t severe, we can offer treatment recommendations to help you feel better more quickly.

Some of the most common symptoms of skin allergies include:

  • Itching
  • Redness or discoloration
  • Rashes
  • Hives
  • Inflammation
  • Scaling and flaky skin
  • Bumps

When It’s Time to Visit Your Dermatologist for Treatment

If you find yourself with a condition where timely treatment is necessary, the U.S. Dermatology Partners team is happy to be offering in-office appointments for non-emergency patients. We are taking extra precautions to ensure your health and safety when you visit. A team member will be in touch to go over what you can expect when you visit us.

Contact U.S. Dermatology Partners Today

To get started, you can use our dermatology session request form to request an in-office appointment. Once we receive your information, we’ll reach out to finalize all the details and answer your questions. If you are in a high-risk health group or can’t visit us in-office for other reasons, we continue to office online virtual appointments. To request a virtual teledermatology appointment, complete our quick teledermatology request form. A team member will be in touch soon to go over the details with you.

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