What Your Skin Says About Your Health

By Temma Ehrenfeld @temmaehrenfeld
August 25, 2017
What Your Skin Says About Your Health

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 problems can make a difference and 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

Hepatitis C is a virus that infects your liver, where it can increase your risk of liver cancer. In most cases, people don’t experience any symptoms. But skin problems can be a sign of the illness.

The back of your 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 sensitive to sunlight.

Red, tender spots on your lower legs, caused by inflammation of your blood vessels, can also alert you to hepatitis C.

Treating hepatitis C will resolve your skin problems.

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, and cold hands and feet — can look like other problems.

Tell you doctor if your skin is especially dry, 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 of developing many other illnesses, and it 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, type 2 diabetes, and poor circulation in your legs.

You can treat psoriasis in many ways, including steroid medications, light therapy, and biologics for moderate-to-severe psoriasis. 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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July 12, 2023

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN