Types of Skin Lesions

Types of Skin Lesions
Types of Skin Lesions (Image: Microsoft Clip Art)

A skin lesion is defined as a mark on your skin that is decidedly a different color than your normal pigment. The majority of skin lesions are benign and harmless. Lesions are divided into two major categories that are based on the texture of the lesion, the color and how it is distributed in your skin. These two categories are primary skin lesions and secondary skin lesions.

Primary Skin Lesions

Primary skin lesions are those that develop as a result of some stimuli that may be caused by internal or external conditions. Examples include papules, erythemas, nodules, blisters, plaques and cysts. Erythemas are the most common form and are reddened areas that are present with most skin disorders. A papule is a raised delineated area of skin and a nodule is similar but larger. Plaques are thick raised areas with specific edges that may be rough or flat. A pustule is a raised area that is filled with pus. A cyst is a depression that is filled with fluid.

Secondary Skin Lesions

Secondary skins lesions result from trauma, infections or other conditions that change the original lesions. Examples of these include fissures, fistulas, scales, crusts, ulcers, erosions, lichenification, abscess, burrow, petechiae and papilloma. Fissures are cracks in the skin. Fistulas are passages, or tunnels, from deep below the skin to another area or to the skin's surface. Scales are dry flakes of skin. Crusts are dried areas of pus. An erosion is a partial loss of skin and an ulcer is a complete loss of skin in a specific area. Lichenification is a thickening of the skin with an exaggerated appearance of the skin. Abscesses are depressions filled with pus. A burrow is a small tunnel under the skin by parasites, such as scabies. Petechiae are small red spots on the skin's surface caused by hemorrhage. A papilloma is a mass above the surface of the skin that looks like a nipple.

Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer

Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the first and second most common skin cancers. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, about 90 percent of these types of skin cancer are a result of exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays. Both forms are treatable and rarely fatal if caught and treated early enough.


Melanoma is a very serious form of skin cancer. If it is diagnosed and treated promptly is can be cured. However, if left untreated, it can spread to other areas of your body where it is harder to treat and may be fatal. The early stages of melanoma, I and II, are easier to treat than the later stages, III and IV. By the time it reaches stages III and IV, it has spread to other areas of your body. While it is not as common as non-melanoma skin cancers, it is responsible for more deaths. Most melanomas are brown or black, but they can be flesh colored, red, pink, purple, blue or white. Melanoma is often hereditary. Family history of melanoma puts you at a higher risk of developing it.


It is important to examine your skin carefully and report changes in your moles to your doctor. Changes in size, shape or color may be signs of melanoma. Protection from the sun is important in prevention of melanoma. Sunscreen can protect your skin from ultraviolet rays. Protective clothing such as swim suits and hats, should also be worn.

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