A Series on Skin Growths & Rashes by:
F. Andrew Morfesis, M.D., F.A.C.S.
General, Abdominal & Laparoscopic Surgery
Owen Drive Surgical Clinic of Fayetteville
513 Owen Drive, Fayetteville, NC 28304
* What is skin cancer? [back to the top]
Sun exposure, while very pleasant, can lead to skin conditions over
time. If you have a painless ulcer, a non-healing, reoccurring scab on a sun exposed area of skin or a mole which appears to be changing or becoming larger, beware; these could be signs of skin cancer and need to be evaluated immediately. Early diagnosis can result in a complete cure. In some cases, family history of skin problems can be significant. Be sure to alert your physician if family members Have had similar conditions. For further information on this topic, contact your family physician, dermatologist or our office.
* What is a “staph infection”? [back to the top]
“Staph” refers to “staphylococcus” which has always been a common organism involved in skin infections. Bacteria grow normally on our skins and can actually have a protective effect. Most such bacteria are not aggressive, however, possibly as a result of overuse of antibiotics an aggressive form of staphylococcus that is resistant to most antibiotics has become common. If you have wound which rapidly worsens, or a “spider bite” that gets as large as a walnut-size within a few days, especially in the presence of diabetes, you should see your family physician promptly.
* What are common skin masses? [back to the top]
“Mass” is a medical term for a skin lump or bump. The term “nevus” is used for a pigmented (colored) skin lesion or “mole”. Many older people develop waxy growths (keratosis) without ulcers or pigment. If such areas are sun-exposed, reddish, gritty, ulcerated or non-healing they may become a precursor to skin cancer. Areas that develop knobs (horns) should also be biopsied. A biopsy can be done relatively painlessly in the doctor’s office with a tiny punch. If you have any questions about this topic contact your family physician, dermatologist or our office.
* What are types of skin cancers? [back to the top]
Skin cancer broadly falls into three types: basal cell, squamous cell, and melanin cell (melanoma) cancers. The first two are easily treated when detected early; look for ulcerated or non-healing skin lesions, pink friable bumps and any enlarging nodule or changing scar. Melanoma is caused by pigmented cells however is not always pigmented. Look for lesions that change shape, color and size. Melanoma, unlike other skin conditions, can be difficult to treat: About 15% of patients have advanced disease at the time of diagnosis and can lead to death. Early diagnosis is important. If you have any questions about this topic contact your family physician, dermatologist or our office.
* What are skin cysts? [back to the top]
Patients can develop painful and enlarging lumps under the skin. These come from skin oil glands which become blocked. When this oil is trapped in the gland, this oil can become irritating to the body and then become secondarily infected. Even when this opens and drains on its own, the gland is frequently abnormal and will not quite heal. Another painful lump is a lipoma (fatty tumor). The lipomas are frequently tender either due to nerves in them or to the fact that they press on nearby nerves. Cysts and lipomas can both be removed if painful or enlarging. If you have any questions about this topic contact your family physician, dermatologist or our office.
* What is a burn? [back to the top]
Burns are terrifying and can be dangerous if they involve face, hands or large areas of the skin, among other risk factors. A burn that causes only reddening of the skin and pain is called first degree, second degree burns cause blisters and third degree burns involve full thickness skin injury. Even a first degree burn can be life threatening if it involves a large enough area. Cooling of the burned area, pain control, fluids, antibiotics and treatment of the burn wound by an experienced person can lead to excellent recovery without scars or loss of function, in almost all cases. If you have any questions about this topic contact your family physician, dermatologist or our office.