Did you know that your skin is your body’s largest organ and a pretty amazing one at that.
Your skin protects you against infection, regulates body temperature, and warns you of danger. Your skin provides a barrier to keep harmful bacteria out. It’s also pretty important to your appearance. However, it plays another significant role in that when there is something wrong on the inside your skin can send out a message.
Changes in your skin can often be the tell-tale sign of an underlying medical condition.
Dry, Itchy Skin. Chronically dry skin is commonly caused by two things-eczema and general dryness or climate. Eczema, a chronic inflammatory skin condition, can cause dry, itchy, inflamed and cracked skin. It has immunological, genetic and environmental components and is also related to asthma and hayfever.
Dry, Dull and Cold skin can sometimes point to hypothyroidism especially when there are other symptoms like general aches and pains, fatigue and sluggishness.
The skin can also become yellow, with orange palms and soles in hypothyroidism due to accumulation of bet-carotenes. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant, found in fruits and vegetables, that normally gets processed by the thyroid. When there’s a thyroid problem, the gland doesn’t metabolize the vitamins as quickly, so beta-carotene accumulates.
Multi-colour skin can also be caused due to beta-carotene buildup because of a diet heavy on carrots, carrot juice, sweet potatoes, and squash. This resolves by itself when the diet is changed.
An Itchy Rash that looks like hives or eczema and breaks out after exposure to the sun could be due to having taken a photosensitizing drug. A chemical in the medication causes a photo-reaction, changes that increase the person’s sensitivity to light.
The rash is limited to sun-exposed areas, including the forearms, the neck, and, less commonly, the face. It can feel worse and last longer than a sunburn. One of the most common drug culprits: thiazide diuretics (Hydrodiuril, Dyazide), which are a first-line treatment for hypertension. Other meds that can produce this effect include antihistamines, tetracycline, the antiaging and antiacne drug tretinoin, and tricyclic antidepressants.
Dark Red Lines on Your Palm, a deepening of the pigment in the creases of the palms or soles is a symptom of adrenal insufficiency, an endocrine disorder also known as Addison’s disease. Hyper-pigmentation may also be visible around other skin folds, scars, lips, and pressure points (knees, knuckles).
Stringy, Bluish-Purple lines snaking up your legs, a.k.a. varicose veins can cause pain, cramping, and difficulty walking. Veins rely on one-way valves, like shutters, to keep blood circulating; when they stop working, blood leaks back into the vein and pools there.
Brown spots on the fronts of the legs along the shins can be due to diabetic dermopathy. The brownish patches may also be rough, almost scaly and tend to form ovals or circles. They don’t hurt. An open, unhealed sore on the foot can also be due to diabetes.
A Burning, Itchy Rash That Won’t Go Away Might Be Dermatitis herpetiformis (DH), clusters of small, ferociously itchy blisters that show up repeatedly in the forearms near the elbows, the knees, the buttocks, the back, or the face or scalp are a hallmark of celiac disease, or an allergy to gluten. The rash appears on both sides of the body. Itching and burning are so intense you can hardly quit scratching.
Purple Splotches could mean Purpura. Purpura (from the Latin for “purple”), or leaking blood vessels under the skin. It has several possible causes, ranging from a bleeding disorder to scurvy (vitamin C deficiency). But in adults over age 65, in whom it’s common, the main explanation is thin skin, often made even more fragile by years of sun damage and weakened blood vessels. Then the condition is known by the unfortunate name of senile purpura.
“An excessive intake of aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, vitamin E, or ginkgo biloba, which older adults often take to boost memory, can worsen the condition. So can blood thinners, such as coumadin, alcohol, and steroids.
Discolouration starts as red and turns purple, persisting longer than a bruise before fading or remaining brownish. The purple skin doesn’t blanch (fade or lose color) when you press it. Purpura can cover large patches of skin or show up as small purple speckles called petechiae. No matter what the size, the purple areas are most common on the forearms, legs, and backs of the hands.
Itchiness Without Rash may be pruritis, one of the first symptoms of lymphoma (cancer of the lymph system). In fact, it’s known as the “Hodgkin itch” (the two main types of lymphoma being Hodgkin’s disease and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma). The itchiness is more intense than that caused by ordinary dry skin, most commonly, in the lower legs. Less often, the skin also looks reddish and inflamed.
Super-Pale Skin and Blue-Tinged Nails can be due to severe anemia, As a result of iron deficiency, chronic blood loss from bowel disease, or ulcer disease, among other reasons. Iron-deficient anemia is sometimes seen in people over age 70, who may no longer prepare nutritious meals or have interest in eating them because of depression or other health problems. The usually-reddish tissues of the mouth, gums, and lips, look pale too.
Tingling and Rash Could be the symptoms of an often painful condition called shingles (herpes zoster) announces itself in this distinctive way. A burning sensation and sensitivity to touch often precede the shingles rash by days or weeks. The rash itself first looks like raised red bumps, not unlike chicken pox, appearing in a band or strip on the trunk, legs, face, neck but only on the left or the right side. Within a few days, the bumps turn into fluid-filled pustules, which crust over a week to ten days later.