Background: Violence is a public health issue that disproportionately affects the poor. Homelessness, drug abuse, and physical violence are seen with increasing frequency in poor communities. This article reviews the cutaneous manifestations of violence and the dermatologic problems commonly seen in the homeless. Particular emphasis is placed on the experience of municipal hospitals serving the urban poor.
Observations: Dermatologic diseases are common in the homeless, and foot-related problems such as cellulitis and pyodermas are frequent causes of hospitalization. Unusual patterns of scarring and bruises in different stages of healing are seen in victims of physical violence. Trauma and sexually transmitted diseases result from sexual abuse. Serious skin infection and self-mutilating scarring are seen in intravenous drug abusers.
Conclusion: Dermatologists are able to diagnose and treat the many skin problems seen in the poor and to identify the physical manifestations of abuse during routine skin examination. Findings of violence should be documented and reported to the appropriate investigational agencies.