Skin, which is the largest organ of the body, is considered a reflection of one’s inner health. Your skin is a good indicator of the health of your other body organs. According to dermatologists various changes that occur on the skin, including skin pigmentation, acne, dryness and new growth, sometimes point to severe underlying health problems.
Dr. Doris Day, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, considers herself as a medical detective since she is constantly observing for hints as to why a particular skin change happened, what are the other signs and when the changes happened. These queries assist Dr. Day in finding out what is going on inside the patient’s mind and body. Day further states that a few of the skin alterations are usually linked to internal ailments and when people notice these symptoms, they should consult their doctor. It is common for any skin disease to appear and then go within a few weeks However, if something continues beyond that, Day recommends consulting a dermatologist, especially if symptoms appear worse during that time.
Skin Rashes and Patches
Generally, a skin rash that is not responding to any medication and is also accompanied by various other symptoms such as muscle aches, flu and joint pain could signify an infection or another internal problem. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), in certain cases a rash may also appear because of an allergy or a negative reaction to a particular medicine.
Day said that a person who has a velvety rash, scientifically termed as acanthosis nigrican, around the arms or neck often indicates that person is at a risk of developing type-2-diabetes. When she sees such rash on a patient’s body, she often suggests they get their blood sugar examined. Day further clarifies that a purple rash on the lower legs that does not respond well to topical creams can indicate a hepatitis C infection.
According to the Mayo Clinic, velvety rash could indicate a more severe underlying health problem, such as cancer of an internal organ like liver or stomach.
Skin Discolorations and Bronzing
Day states that diabetic people can show signs of skin bronzing, which usually is a problem related to iron metabolism. On the other hand, yellowing of skin is related to liver issues, such as liver failure and jaundice. Liver problems can also cause yellowing of the whites of the eyes.
Skin discoloration that is often found in scars and skin folds such as elbows, knees and joints could indicate a hormonal problem like Addison’s disease. According to the AAD, Addison’s disease affects the adrenal glands.
According to the AAD, any new growth on the skin should be examined thoroughly by a qualified dermatologist because the growth could be an indication of skin cancer. Sometimes new growth could also signify a genetic syndrome or an internal disease.
AAD further specifies that yellow or waxy looking bumps (eruptive xanthomas) present on the legs, arms or trunks could be the result of high triglyceride levels, often as a sign of uncontrolled diabetes.
Day further elucidates that acne can provide various hints about the internal problems in women. For instance acne that is mainly distributed along the jaw line or along the lower face may indicate polycystic ovarian syndrome. This disease is often accompanied by other symptoms such as weight changes, increased facial hair growth, and thinning of hair.
Change in Nails
Day explains that changes in the shape and color of nails often indicate deficiency or organ system issues. Fungal infection of the nails is usually caused because of psoriasis in the nails. Day also states that individuals having joint pain sometimes suffer from a psoriatic arthritis. Changes in nail color can also occur because of liver and kidney problems.
Changes in Skin’s Texture
Hardening or softening of the skin could be a sign of underlying health problems. An autoimmune disease known as systematic sclerosis is characterized by swelling and hardening of the skin. In more serious instances it could cause hardening of internal organs such as heart or lungs.
Day believes that kidney disorders and high blood pressure can also cause skin hardening. Furthermore, dry and itchy skin could point to hormonal issues, such as an underactive thyroid. Day explains that people above thirty to forty years of age who never suffered from eczema as a child and suddenly found their skin to be dry with other symptoms of eczema may have underlying hormonal issue, such as low thyroid functioning.
According to AAD, very loose, doughy skin that is silky to touch is a symptom of a rare connective tissue disease called acquired cutis laxa. This disease could point to severe health issues such as multiple myeloma or lymphoma and it could advance to include loss of elasticity of other internal organs.