What is your skin telling you? As humans, our skin tends to change frequently. Our cells develop as we grow, and sometimes these changes can be visible. We often discuss topics on skincare and how to treat certain types of skin conditions. These skin conditions mainly revolve around superficial issues such as oily skin or acne breakouts: Luckily, most of the time, skin conditions don’t indicate anything overly dangerous or alarming. However, it might be time to contact a doctor if an individual notices a sudden change in skin type, nail changes, skin discoloration, or skin texture changes

What our Skin can tell us about our health

A human’s skin is the largest organ in the body. It is the barrier between an individual and many potential health threats, ranging from irritants and element-exposure to life-threatening bacteria. A person’s skin carries with it the ability to raise red flags when the body becomes threatened or sick. These alarms may be visible in various ways, such as skin discolorations, nail changes, or a sudden change in skin type. Though dry skin is the most common culprit for itching, it might also reflect internal problems. 

  • Diabetes: Too much blood sugar may lead to changes in the skin and blood vessels. The result of this high blood sugar is known as plaques- shiny, thickened areas of skin. Darkened skin tone, or hyperpigmentation, may also arise due to diabetes. 
  • Shingles: This condition initially starts with an itchy rash, often under or around the armpit, and can quickly develop into excruciating blisters. These skin texture changes result from the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus many people get as children. However, in adults, this infection can be much more severe. With treatments, the rash and pain eventually go away. 
  • High Cholesterol: Individuals with high cholesterol may develop cholesterol deposits in the skin. These skin discolorations and buildups often lead to yellowish lumps called xanthelasma, or xanthomas. 
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): Cystic acne that resists regular acne treatment and male-pattern facial hair are often some of the most tell-tale signs of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome in women. This condition usually requires follow-up consultation with a doctor and bloodwork to confirm.
  • Allergies: Perhaps one of the lesser evils, hives (blotchy welts on the skin), and rashes may often indicate an allergic reaction. Allergies may be triggered by food, medication, animal fur, pollen, and more. An individual should contact their dermatologist if they notice skin discolorations, rashes, or frequent hive outbreaks.

Nail Changes

Sudden changes in skin type aren’t the only thing people should look out for regarding their health. Nail changes may often indicate underlying health conditions, some of which may be more severe than others.

  • Beau’s Lines: These depressions run across the fingernail and can be a sign of malnourishment, pneumonia, uncontrolled diabetes, and zinc deficiency.
  • Clubbing: This change causes the nail to thicken and curve around the fingertip. This process generally takes years and might be the result of low oxygen in the blood. Low oxygen in the blood is commonly associated with cardiovascular diseases, AIDS, liver, and pulmonary diseases. 
  • Yellow Nail Syndrome: This condition causes the nail to thicken and yellow but not grow as fast as usual. The nail may pull away from the nail bed and may also lack a cuticle. This nail change may be a sign of rheumatoid arthritis, bronchitis, sinusitis, pleural effusions, or internal malignancies.
  • Terry’s Nails: This condition refers to a dark band around the tip of each nail. Due to aging, Terry’s nails may also indicate diabetes, liver disease, or congestive heart failure.

Contact your doctor if you show any signs or symptoms of these nail and skin texture changes.

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