Skin and Hair

What can I do to make rosacea less noticeable?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have rosacea, and it makes me very self-conscious. What can I do to make it less noticeable?

DEAR READER: Rosacea is a common, long-lasting skin condition that causes inflammation and redness of the face. As with many diseases, we don't know what causes rosacea. People with the condition are more likely to have high levels of certain natural inflammatory chemicals in their skin. There also is evidence that tiny little insects (dust mites) and a particular type of bacteria living on the skin can trigger rosacea. Rosacea usually progresses through four stages. In the first stage, a person has flushing and occasional facial redness.

Is eczema just dry skin?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I took my son to the doctor because he was constantly scratching his legs. The doctor says it's eczema. Is that just a fancy word for dry skin?

DEAR READER: Eczema (also called atopic dermatitis) is more than dry skin. It is an allergic skin condition that can make a child miserable. Treatment can usually help control the condition and ease its symptoms. Eczema can look different in different children. It can be bumpy or scaly, with small or big patches. The amount of redness also varies. Dry, scaling skin usually occurs along with it.

What can I do to clear up adult acne?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I am in my 40s, but my face resembles a teenager's -- and not in a good way. What can I do to clear up my adult acne?

DEAR READER: Acne is most common during the teenage years. But it may appear for the first time, or worsen, at the start of menopause. Acne begins in hair follicles -- little pits in the skin, each containing a hair. Glands at the bottom of the follicle make an oily substance called sebum. The sebum normally oozes up to the top of the follicle and onto the skin.

What is cellulitis and how can you prevent it?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My son developed a large, red, swollen area on his arm. The doctor called it cellulitis. My son is better now, but I'd like to learn more about cellulitis and what can be done to prevent it.

DEAR READER: Cellulitis is a serious bacterial infection of the skin. Bacteria live on the surface of our skin, but the skin is built to keep the bacteria from getting inside us. If they get beneath the surface of the skin, and then into the tissues below the skin, they can make trouble. When our skin gets injured, bacteria can break through the skin's protective outer layer.

What is MRSA and why is it so dangerous?

DEAR DOCTOR K: What is MRSA? What makes it so dangerous?

DEAR READER: We have a brain, and bacteria don't. So you'd think bacteria wouldn't be able to outsmart us. But they sure can figure out ways to become resistant to the antibiotics we use to kill them. In the early days of antibiotics, 70 years ago, one of the most common and dangerous types of bacteria -- Staphylococcus aureus -- could be killed by penicillin.

How does Botox reduces lines and wrinkles?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Can you explain how Botox reduces lines and wrinkles?

DEAR READER: "Botox" is short for "botulinum toxin." Botulinum toxin injections were first used for cosmetic purposes in the late 1980s. Since then, this therapy has gained quite a following. In 2012, these injections were the leading nonsurgical cosmetic procedure in the United States among men and women in nearly all age groups.

What are some common skin care myths?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I hear and read so much advice about skin care, and I don't know what's true and what's not. Can you address some common myths about skin care?

DEAR READER: You're right to be skeptical. My patients often tell me that they've heard about a way to keep their skin clear and healthy, and often it is simply not true. I'll debunk some of the most common myths I hear:

Is psoriasis linked to arthritis and heart disease?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My doctor thinks my arthritis and heart disease are connected to my psoriasis. Is this possible? I thought psoriasis was a skin condition.

DEAR READER: Psoriasis (pronounced so-RYE-uh-sis) is named for an ancient Greek word meaning an itchy or scaly condition. It is classified as a skin disease, but psoriasis is the result of an immune system abnormality that can cause problems throughout the body. With psoriasis, white blood cells of the immune system become overactive.

Is it dangerous to have shingles a second time?

DEAR DOCTOR K: A couple of months ago, my wife had shingles. The rash spread to her face, near her eye. This went away without treatment, but the doctor said it could return. If it comes back, does this pose any special danger?

DEAR READER: It sure does. Beyond the pain and discomfort that shingles can cause anywhere in the body, when it gets near the eye it can threaten eyesight. Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). This is the same virus that causes chickenpox. Once you have had chickenpox, VZV quietly remains in your body's nerve tissues and never really goes away.

What is the best way to treat blisters?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I wore a new pair of hiking boots on my vacation and now have several painful blisters on my feet. What's the best way to treat them?

DEAR READER: It sounds like you have friction blisters. A friction blister is a soft pocket of raised skin filled with clear fluid, caused by irritation from continuous rubbing or pressure. The irritation -- in your case caused by new hiking boots -- slightly damages the skin. The uppermost layer of skin separates from the layer beneath, and fluid accumulates in the space that's left.