You see your doctor every year for a physical, and that’s great to help stay on top of any health issues that may be developing. But did you know that a visit to your dermatologist can also help discover hidden health issues before they show their more well-known symptoms? It’s true. That’s why I’d like to tell you about some of the skin conditions that can warn you of possible underlying health issues that may be developing.
That Dark Skin Patch May Predict Diabetes
You live in your skin everyday and you’ve become pretty familiar with its normal look and feel. But there are some subtle – and not so subtle – skin conditions that can alert you that your general health may be changing. Knowing what these skin signs are can help you diagnose a possible health problem earlier and get it better under control.
Although there are quite a few skin conditions that can reveal underlying health problems, here are 5 of the more common ones associated with serious diseases.
1. Dark skin patches. These dark, velvety-feeling skin patches usually crop up around the neck, in the arm pits, or groin. They’re technically called acanthosis nigricans and are most often seen in people who are very overweight. But, they can also predict diabetes as well. Obesity always puts you at higher risk for developing diabetes. The appearance of these dark skin patches are warning that diabetes may be in your near future.
If you see these patches on your skin, and you haven’t had your hemoglobin A1c tested recently, it’s a good time to do that. Finding these patches can give you time to adjust your diet, get more exercise and get rid of that extra weight before full-blown diabetes occurs.
2. Golden Touch. Do the palms of your hands and soles of your feet have a gold-orange tinge to them? If so, your thyroid may be telling you it needs some medical attention. When thyroid function is underactive, or hypothyroidism, a skin condition called carotemia can develop. This creates a kind of “bottle tan” appearance of the skin much like the way those self-tanning products from the 60s-70s used to look. But this kind of “tan” you can’t wash off or wear off. It’s caused by your body’s inability to properly process beta carotene from the fruits and vegetables you eat. That’s because your thyroid is responsible for clearing excesses of beta carotene. If your thyroid function is sluggish, it’s not able to do that job completely and beta carotene starts to build up in your body. Of course, the “golden girl, or guy” look may also just mean you’re eating too much beta carotene foods. These include carrots, pumpkin, and other yellow-orange vegetables and fruits.
But, if your skin has a pronounced gold/orange tinge to it, more predominant on your palms and soles, bring it to your doctor’s attention as it may mean your thyroid is low. Other tell-tale low thyroid skin signs are dry, flaky, cooler skin. A low-functioning thyroid is easily treated with thyroid hormone supplementation.
3. Burning, Itchy Red Rash. If you sporadically break out in a burning, terribly itchy, very red rash in the crease of your elbows, scalp, face, buttocks, or back, it may be telling you that you have a gluten allergy. The rash is called dermatitis herpatiformis and may indicate hidden celiac disease. This disease most often occurs in people of Northern European descent. It means you can’t tolerate the gluten protein that’s in common bread, pasta, and cereal grains like wheat, barley, rye and triticale. If you find you break out in this rash when you eat these food products, you’ll want to, first, stop eating them. Then, get to your doctor and/or an allergist who can formally test you for gluten allergy and celiac disease. A gluten sensitivity is almost always successfully treated by avoidance of foods that contain gluten.
4. Brown Shin Spots. If you work outside a lot, like me, you’ve likely bumped or scratched your shins on something many times. You might have a little bruise for a few days and then it disappears. But if you’ve got too high blood sugar those areas may heal like round or oval patches of light brown spots, almost like a big freckle might look. They can feel rough and scaly and may itch as well. This is what’s called diabetic dermatopathy. The patches are harmless and don’t need to be treated but they’re significant as a warning sign that your blood sugar is likely high. If you start to develop these spots on your shins, see your doctor to get your blood sugar tested.
5. Cool Blue. Skin, and often the lips and nails, that have taken on a bluish-gray tone, can be warning of a few serious conditions. One may be anemia in which your levels of hemoglobin are severely decreased. Anemia is frequently seen in people who are not eating correctly and are lacking iron in their diet. You can also be losing blood chronically through stools or urine. Blood loss like this may be microscopic from inflammatory conditions in the digestive tract, like gastritis or ulcers. But you may also see drops of blood passed through stool or urine. Bleeding like this may warn of bladder or bowel cancer. A second cause of bluish tinged skin, lips and nails could be an underlying circulation problem. Your heart may be having a hard time pumping blood throughout your body.
Both anemia and circulation problems require medical attention. If your skin has become bluish-grayish in tone, please see your doctor to determine the cause. You may need a Hemoccult test to determine blood in your stool or a urine test to look for blood in your urine.
Staying healthy as you get older can be a little tricky even if you exercise frequently, control your weight and eat a healthy diet. The appearance of your skin can be a great ally, though, in your efforts. Address any unusual looking skin conditions with your dermatologist, or your regular doctor, to catch a developing health issue from worsening.
Jay Brachfeld, M.D.
Skin Care Health Awareness, http://www.medicaldaily.com/skin-care-begins-awareness-what-pale-complexion-adult-acne-and-more-reveal-about-your-307496
Your Skin and Your Health, https://www.caring.com/articles/what-your-skin-says-about-your-health-now?page=9