Skin lesions

What are skin lesions?

Skin lesions are abnormal lumps, bumps, ulcers, sores or coloured areas on the skin. There are two different categories: primary and secondary skin lesions. Primary skin lesions are present from birth or are acquired during a person’s lifetime. Secondary skin lesions appear as a result of irritated primary skin lesions. They occur if someone were to, for example, scratch a mole until it bleeds. Many different conditions such as acne, herpes simplex, allergic eczema and impetigo can cause a skin lesion.

What causes skin lesions?

The commonest cause of a skin lesion is an infection on or in the skin, such as a wart or the herpes simplex virus that causes cold sores and genital herpes. Some skin lesions are hereditary, such as moles and freckles. Other causes of a skin lesion can be an allergic reaction or conditions such as diabetes, which causes skin sensitivity.

What are the types of primary skin lesions?

The most common types are:

  • Moles
  • Rashes
  • Acne
  • Blisters
  • Freckles
  • Nodule
  • Pustule
  • Rash

What are the types of secondary skin lesions?

The commonest types of secondary skin lesions are:

  • Crust
  • Ulcer
  • Scale
  • Scar
  • Skin atrophy

How are skin lesions diagnosed?

A doctor will examine the skin lesion and ask if there any other symptoms. They may take samples of the skin, perform a biopsy or take a swab of the lesion, which is to be sent for analysis in a lab.

How are skin lesions treated?

Treatment of skin lesions is determined by the underlying cause. Topical medications can help treat the inflammation and can stop pain, itching or burning. Some skin lesions, which may become infected, can be drained for relief. There are also home remedies that are recommended, such as using lotions for relief from itching and absorbent powders if the skin lesions rub against clothes. Suspicious moles or lesions that may be precancerous are to be removed surgically.

How are skin lesions removed?

Lesions can be cut out of the skin, frozen off or removed using heat, laser, or light therapy. If a patient has a surgical procedure, it can take up to three weeks for the wound to heal. It takes a few weeks for a lesion to scab and comes off after having cryotherapy.


When should you seek a medical professional?

If over-the-counter treatments do not help with conditions such as acne, psoriasis, or eczema, then an appointment with a specialist is recommended. They may prescribe other medications that are stronger.

For infections such as impetigo or herpes, there are no over-the-counter medications and an appointment with a doctor should be made.

If new moles, irregular freckles, or changes in moles are noticed, contact a doctor and make an appointment so they can screen for skin cancer. Check the skin lesion diagnostic table with the Primary Care Dermatology Society here. If in doubt, always ask a doctor.

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