Skin lesions come in numerous shapes, colors, sizes, and types, and millions of people have skin lesions. Many types of lesions are perfectly harmless—birthmarks, for instance, are considered a type of skin lesion. Other types may require treatment, which can include home care, medication, or surgery. Our experienced craniofacial plastic surgeon, Dr. Eric Payne, can diagnose and help treat a comprehensive selection of common and complex skin lesions. If you or your child have noticed a skin abnormality, we encourage you to reach out to our skilled team for more information or to schedule a consultation.
There are 17 identified types of skin lesions, medically referred to as primary morphology. The lesion type, configuration, texture, distribution, and color are the various factors used to describe and diagnose a skin lesion. The term rash is often used to refer to any temporary skin inflammation and is not a “type” on its own. The 17 types of skin lesions are:
- Macules: Flat, discolored patches of skin smaller than 10 mm (the width of a dime is about 18 mm). Some examples include freckles, tattoos, port wine stains, rubella rashes, and some allergic responses to drugs.
- Papules: Elevated lesions smaller than 10mm. Examples include warts, lichen planus, some insect bites, actinic keratosis, some types of acne, and some skin cancers.
- Plaques: Visible lesions less than 10 mm in diameter that are raised or depressed compared to the skin’s surface. Some examples of plaques include psoriasis and granuloma annulare.
- Nodules: Firm elevated lesions (papules) that can grow deep into the skin, such as cysts, lipomas, and fibromas.
- Vesicles: Blisters filled with clear fluid under 10 mm in diameter. Examples include herpes infections, acute allergic contact dermatitis, and some autoimmune blistering disorders.
- Bullae: Similar to vesicles, bullae are blisters filled with clear fluid under 10 mm. Examples of this type of skin lesion include burns, bites, allergic contact dermatitis, drug reactions, and some diseases.
- Pustules: Another type of vesicle but one with blisters filled with pus. Some examples include folliculitis and pustular psoriasis.
- Urticaria: Commonly known as hives, urticaria are elevated lesions that are red and result from a hypersensitivity to drugs, stings, bites, autoimmune response, and, in rare cases, temperature, pressure, and sunlight. Very often they will subside in about 24 hours.
- Scale: As the name indicates, this skin lesion has a dry, scaly appearance and is often associated with psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, fungal infections, and some types of chronic dermatitis.
- Crusts and scabs: A hard formation of dried blood, pus, or serum. Can also be seen in inflammatory or infectious skin diseases like impetigo.
- Erosions: An open area of skin where the skin is missing, often from trauma or inflammatory disease or infection. Rubbing, picking, scratching, and similar behaviors can cause erosions.
- Ulcers: A more advanced version of an erosion, an ulcer is an open area of skin where both the epidermis and part of the dermis (potentially more) is missing. Examples of causes include vasculitis and infections.
- Petechiae: Round, pinpoint spot of red, brown, or purple caused by bleeding under the skin. Causes include straining (from coughing, vomiting, or childbirth, for instance), injury, certain medications (including penicillin, naproxen, and others), sunburn, and some diseases.
- Purpura: In some cases merely a bruise (and often referred to as such), purpura are larger areas of sub-skin bleeding (hemorrhage) that could indicate a problem with blood coagulation. Known as a hallmark of leukocytoclastic vasculitis.
- Atrophy: Dry, thinning, wrinkled skin often caused by sun exposure, aging, long-term topical corticosteroid use, and some skin diseases.
- Scars: Fibrous connective tissue that develops over a wound, burn, or sore that has healed. Hypertrophic scars are thickened, raised, and often highly pigmented. Keloids are hypertrophic scars that expanded beyond the area of the original wound.
- Telangiectases: Permanently dilated blood vessels often caused by sun damage, rosacea, systemic sclerosis, and some types of inherited diseases.
Some types of skin lesions require no medical intervention and will heal on their own or remain on the skin, harmless. Others can benefit from medical treatment or home care. In some cases, surgery may be recommended if the lesion is infected, suspected of being cancerous, or undesirable due to the cosmetic appearance.
We understand finding a strange growth or discovering a patch of skin with an unusual appearance can be distressing, and we can help. Contact our practice today to schedule a consultation and learn more.