Skin Conditions

Your skin

The skin is the largest organ in the human body in terms of weight and surface area. It weighs between three and four kilograms and covers about one and a half square metres.

Skin is made up of two layers, the outer layer is called the epidermis and the soft tissue underneath is called the dermis.

As well as being the largest, the skin is also one of the most complex organs in the human body. It contains oil and sweat glands, hair follicles, blood vessels and nerves.


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What does your skin do?

Your skin serves a number of vital functions:

  • It protects the inside of your body from bacteria and viruses in the outside world that can cause infections.
  • It allows your body to sense what is going on in the outside world, to sense the temperature and whether it is wet or dry.
  • It is responsible for regulating your body temperature.

Common skin conditions:


Warts are lumps, which can vary in size from 1mm to over 10mm in size. They usually appear on the hands and the feet. A wart on your foot is called a verruca. Warts can also affect the areas around the genitals and the anus.

Warts are caused by the human papilloma virus and are spread by skin-to-skin contact and surfaces such as the floor and towels.

Most warts will eventually go away of their own accord but this can take up to two years. There are creams and gels available, prescriptions chemicals, freezing and surgery, which will considerably speed up this process.


Impetigo is an infection of the skin, which is most common in babies. It causes small blisters to appear, which burst leaving itchy, moist patches that eventually dry to a crust.

Impetigo will usually clear up within three weeks but an antibiotic cream will considerably speed up this process.


Psoriasis causes red, flaky patches to appear on the skin, which can cause itching, or a burning sensation. It affects about 2 per cent of people in the UK and often runs in families.

Certain things make psoriasis worse, such as alcohol, smoking and certain medicines.

Treatments for psoriasis include vitamin A or D creams, steroid creams, tar preparations, UV light treatments and oral and injectable medicines.


Ringworm is not, as its name might suggest, caused by a worm. It is a fungal infection that that grows on the skin in a circle. These circles can look silvery or red and are prone to oozing and blistering. It can be easily treated with an antifungal cream, powder or a tablet, which are readily available from a pharmacy.


Vitiligo causes white patches to develop on the skin. It can develop in men or in women at any age, but about fifty per cent of cases develop before the age of twenty.

Vitiligo can develop on any part of the body but is most noticeable on areas that are exposed to sunlight such as the hands or the face. It cannot be passed on through contact.

Treatments include steroid creams, exposure to UV light and disguising the affected areas with makeup.