Chronic Skin Conditions: Definition & Types

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
Remember when you had acne? Maybe you still do. You probably had it for a very long time. Thus, it was considered a chronic skin condition. This lesson will teach you about other famous chronic skin conditions in addition to acne.

Chronic Conditions

When we hear the term 'chronic disorder,' most of us think of things like diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. Of course, those are important problems to address but we often don't think about labeling some very well-known and common skin conditions as chronic, even though they are.

This lesson first defines the word chronic so that these conditions are put in proper context and then explains a little bit about some of the well-known chronic skin diseases.

What is Chronic?

In order to understand why some skin conditions are chronic, we need to first understand what this word actually implies. A chronic condition can have one of three connotations (or a combination thereof):

  • The problem lasts a long time in an uninterrupted fashion.
  • The problem does not last a long time in an uninterrupted fashion but comes back over and over again over a long period of time.
  • The problem is a low intensity problem comparatively.

The latter does not mean it's not a serious problem, that it doesn't hurt, or that it should be ignored. Just that it's minor compared to other medical conditions. We can all agree that itchy skin, even if it occurs for a long time, is not as severe as something like a heart attack.

Chronic Skin Conditions

So can you think of some chronic skin conditions? If you can't, think back to when you were going through puberty. Remember acne, more properly called acne vulgaris? That's one chronic skin condition. Acne causes pimples and zits, namely on a person's face, but also can include their chest and back. It occurs partly because the pores and other structures of a person's skin get clogged with a yucky mixture of dead skin cells, naturally produced oils, and bacteria. All of that is combined with the release of biochemicals that promote inflammation and we get ourselves a nice zit right on our nose and a nickname of 'Rudolph' to boot.

A stereotypical case of acne.

If you were one of the lucky few who did not get acne and have no idea what the big deal is, perhaps you've heard of another big deal, a chronic skin condition called psoriasis. The word psoriasis comes from the Greek word 'psora', which means itch. So it's not surprising that psoriasis causes chronic itching of the skin. This disorder is commonly characterized by inflamed patches of red skin with silvery-white scabs overlying those patches. Such lesions (defective areas of skin in this case) are commonly found on the elbows, knees, lower back, and scalp among other places. They occur partly because people with psoriasis have skin cells that mature so fast that the body can't shed the old skin fast enough.

Note the white accumulation of dead skin in psoriasis.

Another kind of disorder characterized by chronically inflamed skin is called atopic dermatitis, a form of eczema. This condition leads to intense itching, a rash in places like the hands, feet, elbow creases, face, neck, and many others. Blister may be found as well. With time, a person's skin may become thickened, raw, sensitive to touch, swollen, dry, and scaly. No one knows why atopic dermatitis occurs, but like psoriasis, many believe that genes are at play. Dry skin may also predispose a person to this form of eczema as well as irritants and allergens. These can more easily penetrate compromised (cracked) dry skin.

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