Understand the Causes of Macular Rash

A macular rash is a very common type of rash that can appear anywhere on the body. The rash is made up of a collection of small, flat, red spots or a combination of flat and raised spots (which is then referred to as maculopapular). There are numerous illnesses and irritants that can cause a macular rash to pop up, and sometimes it seems like this type of rash comes on with seemingly no cause at all. In fact, doctors aren’t sure exactly what triggers this type of rash when an irritant or infection isn’t involved. There are, however, many well-known causes behind this symptom which you can read about below.

Bacterial, Viral, and Fungal Infections

Infections are one of the leading causes of a macular rash. Viral illnesses like the measles and rubella are well known for causing an obvious rash that quickly spreads over the body. Fungal infections, such as intertrigo, yeast infection, athlete’s foot, jock itch, and ringworm, are all possible causes of a macular rash. The formation of these rashes can vary in appearance, for instance ring worm creates a compact circular formation whereas a yeast infection typically affects the mouth or genital regions in a localized form with no particular pattern. Bacterial skin infections, like cellulitis, folliculitis, and impetigo, are other common causes of macular and maculopapular rashes. Scarlet Fever is also a bacterial-based infection that can cause a quick-spreading rash on the skin. Bacterial and viral infections are especially common in children but they can affect anyone of any age, as can fungal infections.

Most rashes caused by viral infections typically don’t require any treatment as they go away on their own after time, sometimes as much as a few weeks. Bacterial and fungal infections do require treatment and should be inspected by a doctor. Antibiotic or antifungal medications will be prescribed either in the form of an oral medication or a topical cream and are usually very successful.

Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is another medical condition that can cause a macular rash to develop. Atopic dermatitis is a form of eczema that usually kicks off at a young age and returns as a chronic condition throughout the rest of one’s life. It definitely has a genetic tie and therefore those whose parents or grandparents suffer from atopic dermatitis are at a much higher risk of having the condition. This type of dermatitis is generally referred to as “sensitive skin” but what really goes on in the body is much more complex. For people with atopic dermatitis, certain things can invoke a response from the immune system which occurs in the form of a rash. Typically this rash is macular but may also be maculopapular, even developing blisters that weep and bleed if the affected area is scratched. That is another of the symptoms of atopic dermatitis: itchiness. The itchiness can be quite severe and long-lasting if the body continues to be exposed to the allergen that triggers the immune response. The skin can also become tight, cracked, red, and swollen.

Triggers can include a very large variety of things and can be specific from person to person. Some examples of eczema triggers include stress, dry or cold weather, lotions or body wash that contain perfumes or dyes, biological laundry detergent or fabric softener, and even certain types of fabric. Atopic dermatitis cannot always be prevented but the itchy rash can often be soothed by hydrocortisone, calamine lotion, or an oatmeal bath. Keeping the skin moist with a good quality moisturizer and preventing long showers or soaks in the bath can be helpful.

Contact Dermatitis

A macular rash can also occur as a result of contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis can happen to anyone regardless of their family history of such a condition. This kind of dermatitis is usually caused when the skin has been exposed to irritating substances, such as chemicals or toxins, and can form a macular rash that looks very much like a burn. If you’ve ever brushed your skin against poison ivy, then you’ll have an idea of what contact dermatitis is like. A few other examples of contact dermatitis triggers are hair dye, pesticides, weed killer, nail polish, chemicals used to “perm” hair, metal—particularly nickel found in jewelry, latex or rubber, fabric starches or chemicals used on display clothing, and glue. Infants are often struck with contact dermatitis if they are left to sit in a wet diaper for too long, as the ammonia irritates the skin to produce what we call “diaper rash.”

Contact dermatitis produces a macular rash that usually has to be left to go away on its own. If exposure to chemicals has occurred then one should wash the area thoroughly with warm water and soap to remove any of the excess chemicals that may have lingered on the skin. As long as a chemical burn has not occurred then it should be fine to leave the rash to heal of its own accord. The best thing that can be done for a contact dermatitis rash is to discontinue contact with the trigger.