Common Skin Rashes: Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

Written by Julie Jackson, MD, Board Certified Dermatologist on February 18, 2015 4 Comments

skin rash

Skin rashes can occur for a variety of different reasons including allergies, heat exposure, medical disorders and infection. A skin rash is often a symptom of a larger issue which could impact other parts of the body.

Here are some of the most common skin rashes that affect adults. Please note if your rash is persistent or accompanied by other symptoms such as fever it is advisable to see your physician.

Seborrheic dermatitis

This is the most common type of rash affecting adults in the U.S. Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic mild dermatitis that usually manifests as flaky, scaly, or red skin. The rash mostly occurs on the scalp, face, and behind the ears (although it can also occur on the back or chest). While the exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis is unknown it’s believed to be caused by overgrowth of yeast on the skin along with increased oil production.

Atopic dermatitis

Better known as eczema, atopic dermatitis is a long-term skin disorder that causes patches of inflamed and itchy skin on the face, neck, abdomen, back, and limbs. For many individuals eczema periodically flares up and subsides; often from exposure to allergens or irritants, consumption of certain foods, stress, or dramatic changes in temperature.

Contact dermatitis

This type of rash is the result of the skin being in direct contact with a substance that the patient is allergic to. Contact dermatitis produces a very itchy and red rash that occasionally blisters or “weeps”. Some common irritants that cause contact dermatitis include poison ivy, latex, and nickel. Limiting exposure to the source of the allergen will usually allow the rash to heal and prevent recurrences.

Stasis dermatitis

Stasis dermatitis appears as irritated and/or darkened skin typically around the ankles and lower leg. This type of rash is the result of poor circulation and it is often accompanied by varicose veins.


Psoriasis is a common skin issue ranging from a mild nuisance to being severely disabling. Psoriasis manifests as bumpy and scaly patches of skin that can be dry and even painful, due to altered inflammation in the skin. There is now evidence that the inflammation can be increased internally as well, and associated with increased cardiovascular risk. Like Eczema, psoriasis tends to have a pattern of flaring up and subsiding. Topical medication and other systemic therapies can reduce and prevent the symptoms.


A common skin condition for adults can resemble acne in appearance, Rosacea manifests as small red or pus-filled bumps on the face (although it can appear on the neck, chest, and ears as well). Rosacea flare-ups usually occur with consumption of certain foods, use of skincare products containing harsh ingredients, sun exposure, and temperature changes. While there is no cure, knowing and avoiding the source of your rosacea flare-ups can reduce and prevent symptoms.

Heat rash (Miliaria)

Heat rash is a common rash occurring when sweat flow is obstructed, usually due to overexposure in hot and humid weather, overdressing, or wearing tight fitted clothing. The rash appears as small red bumps that have a stinging sensation. Heat rash can usually be resolved by wearing loose and lightweight clothing and avoiding excessive heat.

Drug rash

Drug rashes are a side effect or allergic reaction to a medication. Typically these rashes start within the first week of taking a new medication, although the rash can manifest at any point while taking an oral medication. The rash appears as red spots covering many large areas of the body. Drug rashes usually clear up on their own after discontinuing use of the medication, though some rashes can be slow to resolve.

Julie Jackson, MD

Dr. Jackson is double board certified by the American Board of Dermatology in the specialty of dermatology and sub-specialty of dermatopathology. She is a member of the American Medical Association, American Academy of Dermatology, American Society of Dermatopathology, Women’s Dermatologic Society, and Texas Medical Association.

4 Responses to “Common Skin Rashes: Symptoms, Causes & Treatments”

  1. Avatar Gabby says:

    I have persistent issues with rashes on my thighs. Can you suggest what I should do?

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Gabby, unfortunately we can’t provide specific treatment advice through our website. I’d advise you to give us a call to schedule and appointment. We’ll be able to develop a tailored treatment plan after a physician sees you.

  2. Avatar Patricia says:

    I get contact dermatitis a lot. My doctor recommends wearing gloves at work to stop it.

  3. Avatar Millie says:

    I never took into account the fact that there are other underlying conditions that can come from just a skin rash. With that in mind, I will be seeking a professional to diagnose my daughter’s rashes. She got them after we came from a holiday in a tropical country for three weeks.

Leave a Reply