Pay Attention to your Skin!: A Guide to What Your Skin Is Trying to Tell You About Your Health
Unless we are burning with fever, suffering from uncontrollable vomiting and can’t manage to lift our head from the pillow, most of us don’t pay close attention to adverse medical conditions that may be affecting our bodies. Unfortunately, many health problems do not present noticeable symptoms in their initial stages and may only be detectable through tests such as blood, hormone or imaging scans. By then, the health issue has advanced and probably demands aggressive treatment measures.
While physicians assist their patients with preventative healthcare by providing regular physical examinations, people who know how your skin reacts to developing medical disorders will have more insight into the state of their “deep” health between check-ups. The skin is a highly reactive, sensitive organ averaging over 3100 square inches in size and weighing around six to seven pounds.
Because the skin receives 1/3 of all circulation blood and is constantly exposed to blood chemistry, it reflects asymptomatic, internal anomalies existing at the microscopic level in the form of lesions, discolorations, rashes and acute outbreaks of blemishes.
Skin Conditions: List of Health Disorders and Diseases
Along with the heart and brain, the liver is one of our most vital organs and regulates a variety of essential life functions, including protein synthesis, blood detoxification and optimal digestion. Composed of specialized tissues responsible for hundreds of biochemical reactions fundamental to synthesizing complex molecules, the liver plays a significant role in skin health and will affect the skin when it is dysfunctional. Your skin may be trying to tell you that your liver needs medical attention when it has a definite yellowish tinge, when it develops itchy rashes that do not go away or when you have frequent cold sores that do not heal. Additionally, some research suggests that liver problems may contribute to rosacea, a skin disorder primarily affecting the face.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
PCOS is a frequently experienced disorder primarily affecting women in their 20s, 30s and 40s. Hormonal in nature, PCOS stimulates growth of small cysts along edges of ovaries that are still producing fertile eggs. As a consequence of excess androgens (male hormones) accompanying PCOS, women with this syndrome will notice a mild to moderate condition known as hirsutism (hairiness) causing stray hairs on the chin, upper lip and even the chest to emerge. Acne flare-ups are another sign of possible PCOS as well as male-pattern baldness in pre-menopausal women. Doctors aren’t sure why some women suffer PCOS but treatment involves stabilizing hormone levels or having outpatient surgery called laparoscopic ovarian drilling to eliminate cysts.
Nearly 90 percent of adults suffering from a food allergy are allergic to shellfish, peanuts, fish or tree nuts (cashews, pecans, walnuts). Depending on the severity of the allergy, symptoms range from a minor skin rash or hives (blotchy, raised welts) to a swollen tongue and inflamed airway requiring emergency medical attention. If you notice rashes that appear, disappear and then strangely reappear, you may be suffering from a food allergy.
When the thyroid is not producing enough of two specific hormones—the T3 and T4 hormones—the skin becomes dull, dry and grayish. Fingernails, toenails and hair dry out as well, with nails developing a brittleness that facilitates frequent breakage. Other symptoms of hypothyroidism include daytime fatigue, chronic headaches and a general “unwell” feeling that doesn’t go away. People who take certain psychoactive medications, have an iodine deficiency or are experiencing stress in their lives should take notice of their skin if it develops these symptoms of hypothyroidism, since the disease is often associated with one or more of these issues.
Seventy-five percent of people with the autoimmune disorder lupus will experience round, scaly lesions, scattered rashes and sores that are slow to heal. Most cutaneous lupus symptoms appear on areas of the body that are consistently exposed to the sun, such as the face, arms and ears. Dermatologists can determine through a biopsy whether a lesion is due to the immune system attacking itself and initiate treatment methods to relieve painful attacks of cutaneous lupus. People suffering from lupus should be aware that lesions existing for extended periods without treatment have been known to become cancerous.
People with too much glucose in their bloodstream may discover they are diabetic through blood vessel changes that give rise to distinct plaques. Diabetic skin plaques are areas of thick, shiny, dark red skin that can emerge anywhere on the body. Other skin conditions warning of possible diabetes include small cuts that fail to heal and hyperpigmented skin that feels normal but is not the same color as a person’s regular skin tone.
Only people who have had chicken pox can get shingles, a painfully, rash-like skin condition caused by reactivation of the same virus causing chicken pox. Shingles commonly affects individuals over 60 and almost always targets the shoulders, back and upper chest. A shingles blister resembles a chicken pox blister but is slightly larger and burns rather than itches, especially when it finally pops, oozes and becomes crusty. Treatment by a dermatologist includes antiviral medications and topical ointments to soothe burning and pain.
Lymphoma, or lymph node cancer (Hodgkin’s disease) affects the skin in its early stages by causing intense, constant itching that is so bad it often interferes with a person’s quality of life. Lymphoma patients have reported that this persistent itch feels like it is below the skin’s surface rather than on top, which makes it more difficult to “scratch”. Dermatologists and doctors think that lymphoma-related pruritis (the medical name for severe itching) is produced by proteins called cytokines released by the body to fight cancer cells.
Having your skin regularly examined by a Mayoral Dermatology specialist is the the best preventative method for detecting many diseases in their early stages. While most of us may not recognize a lupus lesion or realize that severely itchy skin is trying to warn us our lymph nodes may be harboring cancer cells, the professional staff at Mayoral Dermatology can immediately identify hundreds of skin abnormalities and initiate appropriate and effective treatment measures.