Skin Problems 

Skin conditions are very common in people of university age and our doctors are skilled at dealing with them. The most common skin problems we see in university students are:

Acne
Eczema

Serious skin conditions, such as skin cancer, are rare in younger people but you should see a doctor if you have any concerns about a mole or lump on your skin. It is important your protect your skin against the sun with a good strength sun cream. 

Acne

Acne is blockage and inflammation of the oil glands of the skin which causes outbreaks of spots, whiteheads and blackheads. It commonly affects the face, arms, back, neck and chest.

It is thought to be caused increased levels of hormones during puberty and early adulthood. Bacteria on the skin can grown in the oil glands, which is irritating and causes inflammation. 

Facts about acne

  • It is not usually affected by diet
  • It is not infectious (it cannot be passed from one person to another)
  • Ordinary chemicals (such as swimming pool water) will not make it worse
  • It may flare up during periods of stress such as during assessments or family problems
  • Do not squeeze blackheads - it may make it worse
  • Avoid overexposure to the sun
  • Mild soaps and skin cleaners are helpful

Acne treatment options

Dietary changes are not usually recommended or necessary. 

You can speak with your local pharmacist to discuss the range of over-the-counter creams and lotions which will help keep the condition under control. 

If your skin is not responding to these options then you can make an appointment with a doctor to discuss different types of treatments. These include lotions/creams/gels and tablets. Female patients may be recommended an oral contraceptive pill.

Eczema (Dermatitis)

Eczema and dermatitis are two words for the same condition. There are many different types of eczema/dermatitis, but the two most common types are: atopic eczema and contact dermatitis. 

Both conditions are caused by a reaction to irritants coming into contact with a deeper layer of the skin, because the usual skin barrier is not working effectively. 

Symptoms include: redness, itching, scaly skin and weeping.

Initially both conditions can be treated by removing/stopping use of the things that seem to be causing the irritation. The following things can make dermatitis/eczema worse:

  • Dry skin
  • Excessive scratching or rubbing of the skin
  • Frequent washing with soaps
  • Extremes of temperature/humidity
  • Stress 
  • Chemicals in contact with the skin (cleaning products/detergents)
  • Metals (eg: jewellery, watches)
  • Perfumes on the skin

Treating Eczema/Dermatitis

It is important to protect your skin barrier by avoiding irritants and applying a regular emollient (moisturiser). You can buy these cheaply in pharmacies and shops. Where your skin is more irritated you can buy a mild steroid over-the-counter from the pharmacy which will help calm the reaction down. 

In more severe cases, or circumstances where your skin is not responding to the usual treatments, you should make an appointment with a doctor or nurse practitioner to discuss other treatment options.