What Are Skin Lesions?

General Health and Preventive Care  /  Blog

What Are Skin Lesions?

Sydney Garrow

Written by Sydney Garrow

Sydney Garrow

Sydney Garrow

Sydney is a contributing health writer and editor who enjoys shedding light on health topics, making information available to anyone who wants it, and ending stigmas or lack of access to care and treatment.

Dr. Katalin Karolyi

Reviewed by Dr. Katalin Karolyi

April 12, 2021 / Read Time 4 minutes

Skin Lesions: Types, Causes, and Treatment

Skin lesions can be a sign of several underlying diseases, or they might just be an irritation easily mended by over-the-counter solutions. 

Because there is such a significant variety of skin lesions, it’s important to identify yours, and speak to a doctor if you feel you might need medication or further analysis. 

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What Are Skin Lesions? 

A skin lesion is defined as anything on your skin that looks or feels different than the skin around it. This means a skin lesion could be anything from a mole or rash, to a blister brought on by a virus. Due to such a large spectrum of possibilities, skin lesion identification can often be difficult to determine. 

To make the process easier, skin lesions can typically be categorized into two main groups, and then identified beyond that. 

Two Types Of Skin Lesions

The two main categories of skin lesions are primary and secondary.

Primary skin lesions are what comes first–meaning any kinds of abnormality in your skin that you are born with or acquire. Primary skin lesions include: 

  • Birthmarks

  • Acne

  • Rashes 

  • Moles

  • Blisters

  • Papules

  • Pustules

  • Nodules

  • Macules

Secondary skin lesions are what happens if your primary skin condition is irritated or worsens on its own. These kinds of lesions include, but are not limited to: 

  • Scar 

  • Ulcer

  • Scale 

  • Scabs

  • Atrophy

What Causes Skin Lesions? 

Skin lesions may be caused by a variety of illnesses, infections, irritants, and more. The main causes of skin lesions include: 

  • Infectious diseases of the skin (bacterial, viral or parasitic)

  • Injury

  • Allergies

  • Aging

  • Infections of skin follicles 

  • Chronic illness

  • Genetics

Skin Lesions Caused By Infectious Diseases 

  • STDs (such as herpes, syphilis)

  • Cellulitis 

  • Chickenpox (Varicella-Zoster Virus)

  • Shingles (Varicella-Zoster Virus)

  • Scabies

  • Warts (HPV)

  • Jaundice (hepatitis)

Skin Lesions Caused By Injury 

  • Blisters

  • Bruises

  • Scabs 

  • Burns 

  • Keloids

Skin Lesions Caused By Allergies 

  • Hives

  • Blisters

  • Rashes

Skin Lesions Caused By Aging 

  • Liver spots 

  • Pruritus

  • Brown rough patches (seborrheic keratosis)

  • Pink rough patches (actinic keratosis)

Skin Lesions Caused By Skin Follicle Infections 

  • Acne

  • Folliculitis

  • Epidermoid cyst infection

  • Boils (furuncles)

Skin Lesions Caused By Chronic Illness 

Skin Lesions That Are Hereditary 

  • Neurofibromatosis

  • Tuberous sclerosis

  • Muir-Torre syndrome

Symptoms Of Skin Lesions

Besides the irritation on your skin, certain skin lesions might come with other symptoms. Additional symptoms of skin lesions may include:

  • Sores with pus, bad smell

  • Fever and chills

  • Sweating 

  • Itching

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Discoloration and swelling 

  • Nausea 

  • Joint pain

If you are having any of these symptoms, your skin lesions may be a sign of a more serious infection. Seek out advice from a medical doctor if your symptoms and side effects worsen. 

What Do Skin Lesions Look Like? 

Since “skin lesions” is an umbrella term that refers to many different abnormalities on the skin, they can look different depending on what is causing them, your skin, and the severity of your case. 

Searching for pictures of skin lesions online can help you get an idea of what you might be experiencing. Keep in mind, comparing your symptoms to pictures online is not a substitute for speaking to a real doctor. With help from a physician, you can diagnose your skin lesions, figure out if they are a symptom of underlying issues, get prescriptions, and develop a treatment plan. 

Can You Get Rid Of Skin Lesions? 

Many skin lesions go away on their own, with the help of medications or topical treatments, or can be removed with the help of a doctor. 

Depending on what type of lesion you have, you may be able to rid yourself of lesions by changing lifestyle habits, waiting for them to heal, taking medication, or having them professionally removed. 

What Skin Lesions Are Cancerous? 

Any kind of new skin lesion you find can cause alarm. Nothing can be determined until samples of your skin, tumor, lesion, bump, or nodule is sent into a lab, so there’s no point in looking at pictures online and stressing out. Some indicators that you need to speak to your doctor or dermatologist about skin lesions that could be cancerous include: 

  • A mole has changed in size or color 

  • A patch of skin has changed in texture or size and it not improving, or is worsening 

  • You feel a bump (nodule) just below the skin, or deeper, and aren’t sure what it is

These are just a few examples of good indicators when you should see a dermatologist or your regular doctor. In many cases, skin lesions of all different kinds are benign (non-cancerous), but it’s always better to get checked out by a medical doctor. 

Are Skin Lesions Ever An Emergency? 

In some cases, skin lesions are just a symptom of a larger problem, which could be life-threatening in rare cases. While a visit with a doctor can be helpful for long-term or non-emergency treatment, you should consider seeking immediate medical help if your lesions are accompanied by any of the following: 

  • High fever

  • Fainting 

  • Confusion 

  • Rapid spreading rash (especially if it’s a reaction to a new medication, or associated with a fever or cough in children)

  • Problems breathing, or any respiratory problem

  • Swelling in face, lips, or tongue 

  1. 1

    Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  2. 2

    See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  3. 3

    Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

Can I Get Online Treatment For Skin Lesions? 

While it may seem daunting to go to a doctor’s office for a skin lesion, PlushCare makes it easier by giving you access to high-quality medical doctors online, who you can speak to from the comfort of your home. 

At PlushCare, you can speak with a board-certified doctor online via your smartphone or computer. During your virtual appointment, you can get their opinion on your skin lesion, whether you need further tests or examinations, and if medication is required. Whether you have a new skin lesion, are suffering from chronic skin conditions, or need a prescription, PlushCare doctors can help you get the right treatment.To get online treatment for skin lesions, book an appointment with a doctor now, with the ease of a few clicks.

Read More About Skin Lesions


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