If you have a health condition or infection, one of the first manifestations that you may notice might be associated with your skin. The skin is your body's largest organ, and when other internal organs are not functioning properly, your skin condition may suffer as well. Here are four health conditions that may cause your skin to look or feel differently:
Diabetes refers to abnormally high levels of blood glucose. While this endocrine disorder typically causes increased thirst, increased hunger, and frequent urination as its primary symptoms, skin problems can also develop. Poor wound healing and vascular insufficiency are common signs of elevated blood sugar, so if you notice that your cuts or scrapes are slow to heal, see your doctor for a blood sugar test.
Also, if you have diabetes, especially long-standing or poorly managed diabetes, your skin may feel numb, or you may experience a pins-and-needles sensation known as peripheral neuropathy. This condition is usually noticed in your hands and feet, but may also occur on your face or trunk.
An inflammatory condition of the liver known as hepatitis can be caused by certain drugs, excessive alcohol consumption, and certain viruses, like hepatitis A. Hepatitis A can make you feel as though you have the flu, and it may even cause your urine to look like dark tea. It may also lead to a condition known as jaundice, which refers to the yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes.
Not only does jaundice give your skin a yellow tinge, it can also cause intense itching. Jaundice is caused by an accumulation of a pigment in the blood known as bilirubin, and because this substance is very irritating to the skin, itching, burning and irritation may develop.
Your skin symptoms will usually resolve once the hepatitis goes away; however, in the meantime, taking an over-the-counter antihistamine, applying calamine lotion, and taking oatmeal baths can help soothe your symptoms.
If you body fails to produce enough platelets or red blood cells, you may experience nosebleeds, bleeding from the urinary or gastrointestinal tract, bleeding gums, tiredness, and shortness of breath. You may also notice an increase in bruising and small pinpoint marks on your skin that are red or purple.
Low platelets and red blood cells may also cause pallor of your skin, and in some people, sallowness. Dark circles under the eyes and pale nail beds are also common symptoms of these blood disorders.
People who take aspirin or prescription anticoagulants sometimes develop platelet disorders; however, after the medication is discontinued, bruising, paleness, and abnormal bleeding usually resolves. If you develop any of the aforementioned symptoms, see your doctor for further evaluation and treatment.
Eating foods rich in iron such as green leafy vegetables and red meat is often recommended to help increase red blood cell production; however, if dietary interventions fail to bring about an improvement in your symptoms, your physician may recommend oral iron supplements or injections.
Dehydration may also cause various skin problems. When you are dehydrated, either from not drinking enough water, from fever, excessive urination, sweating too much, or from having a bout of diarrhea or vomiting, your skin may become extremely dry. It may also itch, and may not snap back into position when gently pinched.
If you pinch the skin on the back of your hand and then quickly release it, your skin should revert back to its normal position. If it forms a little tent that stays that way for more than a split second, it is referred to as poor skin turgor. This may be a sign of dehydration and your cue to drink more water.
If you develop any abnormalities with your skin, see your dermatologist for further evaluation and treatment. The sooner your doctor evaluates your symptoms, the sooner an appropriate treatment plan can be implemented.