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Some skin changes may signal health problems that need immediate treatment. Changes in skin color and skin texture, nail changes, and appearance of rashes and skin growths may be associated with medical conditions such as liver or kidney disease.

The skin is not just a large organ that covers the body and protects it from the elements. It has many other functions that help maintain good health. It also helps give us some clues that one or more of our organs are not functioning well, thus bringing to our immediate attention some health problem that needs treatment.

Sometimes, medical problems manifest as vague symptoms that we often ignore.

These include skin changes that we might mistake as a harmless skin problem, until other symptoms appear. Here are some skin changes, which may signal the development of an internal health problem that may need more attention.

Changes in Skin Color

No matter what skin color you have, there are some changes in skin color that signal certain types of diseases that you should watch out for, and seek immediate help. These include:

  • Bluish skin discoloration. This skin change in color is often called cyanosis, which signals a lack of oxygen in the blood, making skin in the skin, lips, under the nails, around the eyes, and other parts bluish in color. Anything that causes a severe reduction in blood flow or oxygenation can cause cyanosis, such as choking, heart disease, lung infection, and even certain drugs.

    Sometimes, only one part of the body, such as a leg, may be affected, and this may be due to a blood clot that is causing a restriction of blood flow to that area.

  • Yellowish skin discoloration. Liver diseases that lead to liver failure are often associated with jaundice, or yellow skin discoloration. These can include hepatitis, cancer of the liver, and liver cirrhosis. However, jaundice may also result from conditions that prevent the excretion of bile, which is responsible for the yellow color, such as gallstones, gallbladder disease, pancreatitis, and gastrointestinal parasites. Other conditions include malaria, thalassemia, and some autoimmune disorders.

  • Bronzing of the skin. Hemochromatosis, or bronze discoloration of the skin is sometimes associated with diabetes. It is caused by a genetic defect in the metabolism of iron, which gets stored in the body in large amounts, causing the bronzing effect.

  • Darkening of the skin. Dark patches of skin, especially in the creases, over the joints, and skinfolds can signal a hormonal imbalance. It may be due to Addison's disease, which affects hormone production in the adrenal glands, diabetes, or thyroid disease.

Unusual Rashes

Common rashes are often due to local skin irritation, allergic reactions or viral infections. The appearance of a new rash that does not improve with usual skin treatments can be a symptom of a systemic disease.

Rashes may be accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, weakness, headaches, joint pains, and others.

These may be due to less common systemic infections, such Rocky Mountain spotted fever, or menigococcemia, a more serious disease.

Rashes may also be part of an autoimmune disease, such as lupus, which manifests as butterfly-rashes on the face, or dermatomyositis, which causes reddish or purplish rashes in sun-exposed areas of the skin. There are many other conditions that can manifest as skin rashes, including drug reactions, endocrine disease, and more.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • MedlinePlus. Skin discoloration – bluish. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003215.htm
  • EmedicineHealth. Jaundice. http://www.emedicinehealth.com/jaundice/article_em.htm
  • AAD. Skin can show first signs of some internal diseases. http://www.aad.org/stories-and-news/news-releases/skin-can-show-first-signs-of-some-internal-diseases
  • Cleveland Clinic. Dermatologic Signs of Systemic Disease. http://www.clevelandclinicmeded.com/medicalpubs/diseasemanagement/dermatology/dermatologic-signs-of-systemic-disease/
  • DermNet NZ. Skin signs and systemic disease. http://www.dermnetnz.org/systemic/
  • Mindmap by steadyhealth.com
  • Photo courtesy of Klaus D. Peter by Wikimedia Commons : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xanthelasma#mediaviewer/File:Xanthelasma.jpg
  • www.nlm.nih.gov
  • www.emedicinehealth.com
  • www.aad.org
  • www.clevelandclinicmeded.com
  • www.dermnetnz.org

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