Lesions are abnormal changes to areas of the skin which result in skin tags, moles, warts, spots and cysts. They are mainly benign in nature and not likely to cause any problems although some people find them unattractive and have them removed.
A good way of thinking about this is: consider a lesion to be a change to the normal condition of your skin. A lesion can be confined to a small area or cover a large part of the body. They develop in everyone, males and females, young and old.
Type of lesions
This is a broad subject which includes:
- Rashes, e.g. caused by an allergic reaction
- Seborrheic keratosis
- Basal cell carcinoma
- Malignant melanoma
There are many varieties of these lesions, for example, several types of cysts. Lesions come in all sizes, shapes and colours.
These are classed as primary or secondary lesions. A primary lesion develops on its own and is the determining factor of that condition. A secondary lesion occurs following a change in a primary lesion, for example, the rupture of a blister resulting in a hard crust.
Causes of lesions
These range from the mild through to the serious. Mild causes include a cut or bruise whereas serious factors include autoimmune diseases and skin cancer.
The ageing process causes inevitable changes to the skin such as lines, wrinkles, age spots and moles. These all mark the passing of time and vary in extent between individuals.
Allergic reactions often cause a skin rash such as hives: this equally applies to certain medical conditions, for example measles or chickenpox.
Skin lesions may form as one of many symptoms associated with chronic conditions such as diabetes.
What about lifestyle factors? A classic example is sunbathing which changes the colour of the skin, e.g. a tan but is also a sign of skin damage. Too much sun can cause hives, prickly heat rash and even ringworm.
Symptoms of lesions
Symptoms vary according to what type of lesion you have and the cause. You may find that you experience symptoms which affect other areas of the body apart from the skin (and accompanying rash).
If you develop lesions are part of yeast, fungal or bacterial infection then you may experience the following symptoms:
The rash itself may be red, itchy and inflamed or comprised of fluid filled blisters which release pus if ruptured. These empty blisters then form a hard crust on the surface.
Warning: if you experience difficulty in breathing, develop a high temperature and your lips, tongue or throat begins to swell then call 999 immediately. These are extremely serious and require urgent medical attention.
Many lesions are mild but others are a sign of a serious condition such as skin cancer. If you notice any changes to your lesions or new ones have appeared then speak to your GP. And speak to your GP if you are the parent of a child who has developed lesions.
Your GP will examine the lesion or lesions before asking you a series of questions about your medical history and family history. He or she will also ask you about your symptoms, for example, when did you first notice your lesions? Other possible questions include:
- Are your lesions itchy?
- Do they hurt?
- Have your lesions changed shape, colour or size?
- Do you have an allergy to certain substances?
- Are you experiencing any other symptoms apart from your lesions?
- Is this the first time you have had these lesions?
The aim is to determine the exact cause of your condition, especially as some lesions look the same irrespective of the skin disorder.
Treatment for skin lesions
Treatment will depend on the cause: there are a range of options to choose from which include:
- Topical steroids
- Laser therapy
- Light therapy, e.g. intense pulsed light (IPL)
- Cosmetic treatment, e.g. chemical peels
Other options include camouflage creams and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAID’s).
Some types of lesions are more serious than others and are at increased risk of complications. For example, lesions caused by malignant melanoma can be life threatening.
Others may lead to scarring or affect other parts of the body, e.g. organ failure. So it is important that you seek treatment sooner rather than later. Even if you think your lesions are nothing to worry about, speak to your GP as they may be a sign of something more serious.