There are over a thousand entities in dermatology; it is difficult to understand all in just a few pages. We are going to describe a few common skin problems. This is purely educational; if you have a skin disease, please consult your dermatologist.

Urticaria is probably the most often encountered skin disease in the A&E department. 15-20% of the population will be troubled by urticaria at some stage in their lives.

Urticaria results from physical stimulation of the skin, creating a surge of histamine which then causes our skin to turn red, blotchy and itchy. Most acute attacks will subside in a matter of hours; however, there are also chronic cases that may distress us significantly.

The most often seen physical stimulus is physical pressure directly on the skin, such as urticaria developing in the bra strap area. Other stimulations include heat, cold, vibration, sunlight, water, emotion and exercise. There are sometimes non-physical stimulants also capable to cause urticaria such as infection, food, drugs and environmental factors.

Urticaria cannot be cured. The aim is to identify the offending stimulation, and to avoid it if possible. Oral anti-histamine medications can be effective in alleviating symptoms.

Angioedema is a much more serious version of urticaria. The mucous membranes are also affected and the patient may have swelling of the eyelids and throat soft tissue. In severe cases, the airway will be grossly narrowed and will obstruct breathing. This is a medical emergency.

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