The purpose of this chapter is to provide an overview of tropical diseases that most commonly affect the skin. This will be useful for health workers who may not be familiar with tropical diseases and also as a guide to help those who are already working in the tropics and who see them all the time.
Skin disease is extemely common in the tropics, affecting up to 50% of the population. Most are infections or infestations such as impetigo, ringworm, and scabies. These can easily be treated but continue to be common because of overcrowding, poverty, and the lack of resources given to health care (training of health personnel and lack of basic medicines). To a large extent such diseases can be controlled with very simple measure suitable for use by those with minimal training. Atopic eczema is just as common in urban areas in the tropics as in the west. Skin cancers are uncommon in those with a black skin because of the protective effect of melanin, but are common in albinos.
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