What Your Skin Says About Your Health

By Temma Ehrenfeld @temmaehrenfeld
August 25, 2017

Know what your skin says about your health: It can reveal problems early on, such as diabetes, heart trouble, hepatitis C, or hypothyroidism.

Your skin can give you important information about your health.

What your skin says about heart disease

Knowing as early as possible about coming heart issues can make a difference, even save your life. Waxy yellow plaques on your upper eyelids, known as xanthelasma, may indicate high cholesterol, a risk factor for heart disease. If your doctor prescribes cholesterol-lowering drugs, you may enjoy the reassurance of seeing the plaques disappear.

Itchy, red skin on your legs, called stasis dermatitis, is a sign that too much fluid is accumulating in your legs because of heart problems. Your doctor may prescribe compression stockings and topical corticosteroids. You’ll know that you need to take any concerns about your heart seriously.


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What your skin says about hepatitis C

The virus infects your liver, where it can increase your risk of liver cancer. In most cases, people don’t experience any symptoms. However, skin problems can be a tip off. The back of their hands may develop blisters because of an unusual sensitivity to sunlight, a condition called porphyria cutanea tarda. Alcoholics and people taking some medications may also become especially sun-sensitive. Red, tender spots on the lower legs, caused by inflammation of the blood vessels, can also alert you to hepatitis C.  Treating hepatitis C will resolve the skin issue.

What your skin says about diabetes

Millions of people have undiagnosed diabetes or prediabetes, high blood sugar that is likely to get higher unless you take steps to lose weight and exercise more while possibly taking medication. When you develop insulin resistance, the beginning of the chain of events that leads to diabetes, you may also develop high levels of triglycerides, a fat in your bloodstream. The triglycerides may trigger yellow-red bumps, called eruptive xanthomas, which sprout on your buttocks, shoulders, arms, and legs. Manage your blood sugar. The bumps will probably go away when your blood sugar is under control.

What your skin says about thyroid disease

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is a common cause of a lack of thyroid hormone. Of an estimated 14 million people who may have this problem, most don’t realize it. The symptoms — fatigue, muscle, and joint pain, depression, weight gain, constipation, cold hands and feet — can look like other problems. Be sure to tell you doctor if your skin is especially dry, as that is one of the symptoms that may distinguish your issue as a thyroid problem. Some people lose hair in their eyebrows. Your eyebrows and skin should go back to normal once you are treated, most likely with a thyroid replacement hormone.

What your skin says about lupus

The tell-tale sign of this autoimmune disorder is a red rash on your nose and cheeks that looks a bit like a butterfly. Your skin may develop lesions that get painful when exposed to the sun. Lupus increases your risk for developing many other illnesses, and should be treated and monitored. You will need to be especially attentive to your blood pressure and cholesterol and get regular cancer screenings and checkups for kidney function and bone density.

What your skin says about psoriasis

Like lupus, psoriasis is an autoimmune problem; your body is attacking your own skin cells, creating patches of thick silvery skin or itchy red patches. Chronic inflammation is bad for your body, increasing your risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and poor circulation in the legs. You can treat psoriasis in many ways, including steroid medications and light therapy. At the same time, be sure to monitor your risk of heart disease and diabetes and adopt the most healthful lifestyle. Quit smoking, exercise, and keep your weight in a healthy range.


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March 25, 2020

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN