Whether it’s an odd-looking mole or a rash that just keeps itching, there are plenty of little skin issues we all put off getting checked. We’re busy, after all! And while it may seem like these minor nuisances are just that — minor — that may not always be the case. As your mother always said, better safe than sorry.
A mole that looks a little off
What it could be: A change in the appearance of a mole (or a mole popping up where you didn’t used to have one) could be a sign of melanoma. Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that that arises from the pigment producing cells of the skin. Melanomas can be nearly any color (brown, black, skin-colored, white, blue, or red), so don’t assume that just because it’s the same color as any other mole, you’re in the clear.
What happens if you wait? There are signs that a spot could be cancerous, and if any of these are present, you should see a doctor immediately. Melanoma is very treatable if caught early, but can be deadly if left to develop or spread to other parts of the body.
A sore or scab that won’t heal
What it could be: While melanoma is the most talked about form of skin cancer since it’s the most deadly, most of us aren’t as familiar with the two most common types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. These may appear as a sore that won’t heal, a scaly red patch, a wart-like growth, or a reddish patch.
What happens if you wait? These two types of cancer are not as deadly as melanoma. However, they do rarely spread to other parts of the body, and can be disfiguring if left untreated. Since they most often happen on the face or other body parts regularly exposed to the sun, it’s best to treat them as quickly as possible to prevent permanent scarring. Moreover, the earlier the cancer is found, the more treatment options you have.
What it could be: A wart can be an unsightly and uncomfortable nuisance. Not to mention, warts around your genitals can be a cause for serious concern.
What happens if you wait? Warts can be embarrassing, itchy, and uncomfortable, so your dermatologist may recommend removal. Plus, common warts can be spread from person to person, and from one part of your body to another. Unless you relish the idea of having more warts removed (or bringing along other family members to have warts removed), you’ll save time, money, and trouble getting them taken care of sooner rather than later.
Of course, a more sinister infection, like genital warts, poses a much greater threat. HPV is easily spread through sexual contact and can cause cervical cancer in women, meaning it’s essential to get a diagnosis right away if you see these crop up. (It’s also important to note that attempting to freeze, burn, or cut off a wart at home can cause infection, which would further complicate an otherwise simple medical procedure.)
What is it? A rash is a general term for an inflammation of the skin, and may itself be an infection, or may be a symptom of an allergy or illness elsewhere in the body. It may or may not blister, itch, or feel bumpy or scaly, and could be caused by eczema, poison ivy, shingles, a staph infection, herpes, or dozens of other issues. In short, a rash isn’t any one thing.
A rash that isn’t associated with any other symptoms (fever, for example), may be treated with over-the-counter topical medicine for a few days, but if it doesn’t subside, you should get a professional’s opinion. Likewise, if a rash is associated with other signs of illness, like fever, aches, or other flu-like symptoms, the rash is likely a symptom of a different underlying issue and you should contact a doctor right away.
What happens if you wait? If the rash is infectious (e.g. ringworm, herpes, and measles), procrastinating on seeing an M.D. could allow the infection to get worse, and spread to friends and family members. At best, this is just a headache for all involved, but at worst, it could cause a dangerous outbreak among populations with weaker immune systems, like kids or older folks. If the rash is not infectious, but progresses more than a few days, the itching and irritation could lead to eventual infection, meaning additional trips to the doctor, prescriptions, and lots of time lost out of your day.
What should you do?
It can take weeks to get an appointment with a dermatologist in-office — not to mention having to clear your schedule and find a time during regular work hours to come in. No wonder so many people leave seemingly minor skin issues untreated! Instead, virtual dermatology with SkyMD allows you to get a response within 48 hours. You’ll receive a treatment plan and have any necessary prescriptions sent to your preferred pharmacy, or the doctor can request that you come in for a biopsy or more complete examination. Either way, you can be sure you’ve take the appropriate measures to safeguard your (or a loved one’s!) health.