Woman with skin inflammation resting on couch

What is skin inflammation?

Medically reviewed on August 1, 2022 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.


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Whether you’re recovering from a mild sunburn or trying to discover what allergen may be responsible for chronic rashes, dealing with skin inflammation has the potential to disrupt your day-to-day life.

If you’ve been experiencing skin inflammation, it can be difficult to ascertain how to reduce skin inflammation and find relief. The best first step is to take stock of your symptoms, explore possible irritants, and learn how healthcare providers themselves approach diagnosis.

This quick guide will review some key signs and symptoms of skin inflammation, as well as what you can do to start bringing your skin back to balance.

Causes of skin inflammation

The first thing to understand about inflammation is that it is not a disorder. Rather, it’s a normal immune response that typically indicates your body is: [1]

  • Fighting a bacterial infection
  • Responding to a virus
  • Rejecting a pathogen (or, in the case of allergies, a perceived pathogen) that has come in contact with your skin

Any of the above causes could lead to inflammation, either superficially (on the skin’s surface) or inside the body. Because of this, inflamed skin may be the result of exposure to a specific substance, or it could point to an underlying skin condition.

If you’ve been dealing with persistent skin inflammation—or acute inflammation with severe symptoms—it’s important to seek the help of your healthcare provider to determine an appropriate course of treatment.

What types of skin inflammation are there?

Dermatologists or healthcare providers typically recognize six main types of skin inflammation: [2]

  • Contact dermatitis, a common skin response to skin irritants or chemical toxins [3]
  • Rash, which may be caused by an allergy
  • Skin cancer, which occurs superficially as a result of sun or chemical exposure
  • Skin infection, which usually results from exposure to bacteria or a virus
  • Injury to skin, which may be caused by sunburns, scrapes, or lacerations
  • Underlying conditions or disorders, which may refer to any type of inflammation that can’t be explained by the aforementioned

Sometimes, the root cause of skin inflammation can include more than one of the conditions listed above. For example, a rash could result from an allergy but may be further aggravated by a type of lotion you use habitually.

To diagnose the root cause of skin inflammation, board certified dermatologists and healthcare professionals begin by examining the signs and symptoms an individual is experiencing.

Signs and symptoms of skin inflammation

Before identifying possible signs and symptoms of skin inflammation, it’s important to distinguish between these two terms: [4]

  • Symptoms are conditions that a person subjectively experiences and reports to their healthcare provider. For instance, allergy symptoms can include skin rashes, itchy skin and throat, runny nose, and congestion.
  • Signs are objective markers of a skin disease or condition that are confirmed by a healthcare professional using qualitative or quantitative data. For example, an allergy may be identified by elevated levels of immunoglobulin E (IgE) in the bloodstream—an antibody that your body produces in response to an allergen. [5]

In other words, a symptom can be directly or indirectly related to skin inflammation, but a sign is typically an absolute indicator of the individual’s condition. Where symptoms typically prompt an individual to seek care in the first place, signs are what help healthcare providers determine their treatment protocol.

Symptoms of skin inflammation

Some common symptoms of skin inflammation include, but are not limited to:

  • Swelling
  • Rash
  • Pain
  • Skin redness
  • Pus or oozing
  • Itching

If you experience any of the above, this could be your signal to seek professional care.

Signs of skin inflammation

Some signs that your healthcare provider may look for to confirm skin inflammation are:

  • Quantitative test results, like:
    • High levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood [6]
    • IgE content in the blood
    • Presence of viral or bacterial matter in the body or on the skin
  • Qualitative information, including:
    • Medical history
    • Responses to drugs or other treatments
    • Related physiological dysfunction (e.g. labored breathing or joint immobility)

Diagnosing and treating skin inflammation

The most important thing to understand about skin inflammation is that it is usually an indicator of another root cause or condition, rather than a disease in and of itself.

Let’s return to the rash example. A host of skin conditions can result in a rash, but the unique traits of each can indicate what caused the rash in the first place. In this case, your healthcare provider may assess qualitative traits such as:

  • The color of your skin rash
  • The location where the rash has formed
  • The surface area the rash covers
  • Whether or not your skin rash exhibits lesions
  • The oiliness, dryness, and general condition of your skin

Once a possible cause has been identified, several treatment protocols may work to quell skin inflammation. These typically include one or more of the following:

  • Ointments
  • Creams
  • Lotions
  • Oral medication
  • Skin surgery

Remember that there are countless environmental particles our skin is exposed to on a daily basis, and experiencing some form of skin inflammation or irritation from time to time is common. Finding an effective treatment plan begins with testing for hypersensitive skin and consulting a healthcare provider that you trust.

Test for inflammation and other health conditions with Everlywell

If you’re experiencing skin irritation, the cause of the inflammation might not disappear on its own—which is why testing can be such a critical component of the treatment process.

When you need healthcare testing but don’t have time to visit your healthcare provider, start with the Everlywell Vitamin D & Inflammation Test. This at-home kit offers a comprehensive, convenient testing option to help you determine whether you may be experiencing inflammation.

To take a closer look at your health profile and start developing a holistic wellness plan on your own terms, visit Everlywell today.

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References

  1. What Is An Inflammation? National Library of Medicine. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  2. Skin Exposures and Effects. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  3. Contact Dermatitis. National Library of Medicine. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  4. Signs and Symptoms to Determine if a Patient Presenting in Primary Care or Hospital Outpatient Settings Has COVID-19 Disease. National Library of Medicine. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  5. Allergy Blood Test. Medline Plus. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  6. C-Reactive Protein (CRP) Test. Medline Plus. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  7. Bacterial Infections. Medline Plus. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  8. Viral Infections, an Overview with a Focus on Prevention of Transmission. National Library of Medicine. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  9. Allergies: Overview. National Library of Medicine. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  10. Tinea Corporis. National Library of Medicine. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
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