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What your skin says about your health

Updated: Jun 6, 2022

From general fatigue to disease, skin, hair, and nail conditions can be symptoms of a range of ailments

Even though the skin is on the outside of your body, it is no surprise that it can be a window to your body health.

Dermatologists will be able to tell al lot about a person’s general health by just examining their skin. The state of your skin will be a good indication of your living habits for a dermatologist’s trained eye.

The first thing skin will tell about you is how much outdoor exposure to environment and sun damage for your age. Wrinkles, sun spots, uneven pigmentation and loss of elasticity are signs of skin abuse.

Sleep depravation is also reflected in your skin. Dark circles, saggy or droopy eyes are a clue for fatigue. Bad habits are also reflected in your skin. Smokers’ skin is often giving away the addiction to cigarettes. The skin of smokers is pale in colour and they present wrinkles around their lips.

Dry, itchy skin

It’s not uncommon for skin to feel dry or itchy, especially in the winter. Keeping your baths and showers short and moisturizing while your skin is still damp afterward can usually keep this condition under control. People with chronic skin conditions like atopic dermatitis (eczema) experience these symptoms more often and more severely. Diabetes, for example, can make the skin more prone to itching, as can lymphoma. Opioids and other medications can also cause itching. Thyroid disorders may cause skin to become dry.

Irritated hands

Constant handwashing and using hand sanitizers with alcohol during the coronavirus pandemic can take a toll on your hands. Moisturizing hand creams or ointments can usually take care of this common problem. Sometimes the problem isn’t so common. Dermatomyositis is a condition that can mimic hand dermatitis but is the onset of an inflammatory, autoimmune disease similar to lupus.


Seborrhoea is the medical name for common dandruff on the scalp (and sometimes around the nose). It can usually be treated with medicated shampoos or prescription treatments. Dandruff can be a clue for underlying illness such as Parkinson disease.


Breakouts are normal during adolescence, and they often persist into adulthood. Wearing a face mask can also cause acne to flare. Severe acne at a later stage in life could be an indication of an underlying hormonal abnormality such as polycystic ovaries or PCOS.

Discolored skin

Color changes to the skin can sometimes indicate underlying illness. The skin of people with chronic illness may have a gray, sallower colour. Yellowish or orange looking skin can be an indication of kidney or liver disease. Brown tan spots may indicate that there is a blood circulation issue.

Small bumps around the eyes

Small yellow bumps that can show up around the eyes or nose are called xanthelasma, and they’re made of cholesterol deposits. In some people it may indicate high cholesterol.


There are a lot of reasons why your skin might break out in a rash. Common rashes include contact dermatitis—a reaction to something your skin touches that can usually be easily treated with topical therapy and avoiding the substance that triggered the rash. Having psoriasis, for example, increases the risk of having heart disease and other conditions. And, of course, there are distinctive rashes like the target-shaped rash of Lyme disease and the butterfly rash across the face that many lupus patients develop.

If you notice a change in your skin, there’s no need to panic. Most skin disorders don’t signal serious illness and are treatable. But do schedule an appointment with a certified dermatologist to find out what’s going on. Your skin may be trying to tell you something.


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