When a rash or another skin problem pops up, it can be unsettling for a number of reasons – you’re worried about your health and don’t know how serious your condition is, you’re self-conscious because your symptoms are so visible, and you’re concerned about whether your illness can spread to those around you. Contagiousness is among the top questions on every dermatology patient’s mind, so to help you know what safety precautions to take (whether the patient is you or someone you interact with), we’re setting the record straight on some of the most common skin conditions.
Dermatitis – Usually not contagious
While there are many different types of dermatitis, the condition has a lot to do with your unique body chemistry (like allergies or reactions to specific irritants), so it’s typically not contagious. Still, it’s important to see one of our experienced board-certified dermatologists to get an accurate diagnosis.
Eczema – Not contagious
As one of the most common forms of dermatitis, the cause of eczema is not yet known. However, we do know that it can’t be passed from person to person and that it’s likely caused by some combination of genetics, environmental factors, and/or an overactive immune system.
Genital Warts – Contagious
Genital warts are caused by a sexually transmitted strain of human papillomavirus (HPV). While the virus is typically spread through unprotected sex, in rare cases, it can also be passed from a mother to her child during birth, and because the warts can also cause other problems during childbirth, it’s especially vital to seek treatment for any outbreak you develop during pregnancy.
Hair Loss – Generally not contagious
The most common cause of hair loss (in both men and women) is genetics. However, in some cases, hair loss can be caused by underlying health conditions, and while the hair loss is simply a symptom, some of these health conditions are contagious. If your hair is thinning, schedule an appointment with one of our specialty centers, The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research or the Griffin Center for Women’s Hair Loss for a thorough diagnosis.
Vitiligo – Not contagious
As a form of hypopigmentation, vitiligo causes patches of a patient’s skin to lose pigment and appear white. Though it can be a very distressing condition for patients, vitiligo cannot be passed from one person to another.
Psoriasis – Not contagious
Psoriasis appears to be the result of an inherited condition combined with triggers which are unique to each patient, so the condition is not contagious. While it is a chronic illness, our dedicated psoriasis treatment center can provide highly skilled and specialized symptom management.
Shingles – Only contagious under specific circumstances
Shingles is a rash caused by a recurrence of the same virus (called VZV) which causes chicken pox. The virus can lie dormant within your body for years before reactivating in the form of shingles. While chicken pox can be spread through the air, shingles patients can pass VZV through contact with lesions. Those who have never been exposed to VZV (whether by vaccine or by chicken pox), as well as those who have compromised immune systems, may contract chicken pox from touching a shingles lesion. To lower your risk for shingles, a vaccine is available for patients over the age of 60 (or, in some cases, the age of 50).
Rosacea – Not contagious
Patients with rosacea suffer from consistent or frequent facial redness due to blood vessels which dilate in response to specific triggers. While we don’t yet understand the direct cause of rosacea, we do know that it is not a contagious condition and that it likely has a genetic component. Fortunately, our laser treatments have been effective in minimizing and managing rosacea symptoms long-term.
Warts – Contagious
While they are slightly different from genital warts, common warts and plantar warts (which typically appear on the hands or feet) are also caused by a strain of HPV and can be transmitted to other people and to other parts of your body. While HPV is a very common virus, it forms a wart when it enters the body through a cut, scrape, or other break in the skin. To protect yourself from developing a wart, avoid touching others’ warts and be cautious to wear shoes and gloves in warm, damp environments like communal showers.
Hives – Not contagious
Hives are generally caused by an allergic reaction, so they’re dependent on your body’s unique chemistry and cannot be transmitted from person to person.
While the information above can serve as a helpful guideline, the most important step to take when you develop a skin condition is to schedule an appointment at DAA to receive an accurate diagnosis. Working with a board-certified dermatologist is the only trusted way both to know whether your condition is contagious and to receive effective treatment, especially for progressive illnesses. For more helpful information and skincare tips, join us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.