What Your Skin May Be Saying About Your Health

Patient Expert
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The skin is the largest organ of the body and when it changes, this can be the first sign that you need to take action. Take a look at these skin issues worth paying close attention to.

Dry Skin

There are a lot of factors which can contribute to dry skin which include the weather, hot showers/baths, central heating, certain soaps, not drinking enough water, or not moisturizing properly.

What this says: Dry skin is not usually a reason to worry, but it does say you need to either do more or less of something. The bottom line: If you see dry skin, something needs to be added or removed from your health and beauty regimen. Invest in a humidifier, eliminate hot showers and baths, use heavy moisturizers, and drink more water.

More than Dry Skin

If your skin has thick dry patches, is peeling, is painful and does not seem to improve with simple over-the-counter methods, it might indicate a bigger problem. Here are two of the various diseases that  may initially appear to simply be dry skin, but actually are more serious:

Psoriasis This is not a “skin condition,” but is in fact an autoimmune disease which affects the skin. It’s caused by an over-reactive immune system which causes the body to produce skin cells at a rapid rate. In a normal body, skin cells have a life cycle of approximately 28 days and shed off. With psoriasis, the body can’t keep up with its rate of skin cell production, so instead of flaking off, dead skin builds on top on healthy skin, causing red-purple inflamed, crusty, patches.

What this says: For one reason or another your immune system is out of whack, which can be caused by stress, environmental factors, genetics or some other illness. The issue is most commonly solved with medicines that suppress the immune system or holistic remedies, but take action to avoid other bad outcomes.

Ichthyosis Vulgaris This is dry skin accompanied by thick scales of skin which resemble “fish scales.” Many people experience a very mild form of this disease, but I recently met a young lady whose condition was so severe, it made her skin appear to be falling off from her body.

What this says: According to the American Academy of Dermatology, this condition is caused by inherited genes or a gene mutation, and can also be triggered by medicine.  A severe case can cause body odor, wax build-up, and itching, according to Harvard Health. Treatments that promote moisture retention or that help the skin to peel away are commonly used.

Moles

Most people have moles. The Mayo Clinic describes moles as “melanocytes, that grow in clusters or clumps. Melanocytes distributed throughout your skin and produce melanin…”

What this says: Generally moles are harmless, but it’s encouraged that you keep an eye on any changes that may occur with your moles. A variation in a mole could indicate an issue like cancer. According to the American Cancer Society normal moles remain the same shape, size, color, and are asymmetrical. Possible cancerous moles will vary in shape, size, and color. Cancerous moles can be deadly and need to be treated as soon as possible. The sooner one discovers a cancerous mole the better the results with treatment.

Acne

This is a skin condition. A variety of factors can cause acne which include genetics, stress, eating habits, water intake, or the need of better skin care. Acne is caused when the pores of the skin get clogged with oils and dead skin cells.

What this says: Severe acne can cause low self-esteem and depression, and leave dark spots and scars if not treated properly. Acne can also resemble hidradenitis suppurative, a disease with similar symptoms.

A Dark Neck

Dark and thick skin can appear on the neck and other parts of your body, and depending on the circumstances is a condition referred to as acanthosis nigricans.

What this says: Alone, the condition is in no way harmful but could be a sign for bigger issues and usually appears in people who are overweight. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, this issue could indicate that the body is creating too much insulin. If a person is showing signs of this condition they should go to a doctor to be tested for diabetes.


Alisha Bridges has battled with severe psoriasis for over 20 years and is the face behind Being Me in My Own Skin, a blog which highlights her life with psoriasis. Her goals are to create empathy and compassion for those who are least understood, through transparency of self, patient advocacy, and healthcare. She is currently a post-bach student at Georgia State University pursuing a career as a Physician's Assistance—her passions are dermatology and sexual health. Alisha also shares her passion as a Social Ambassador of the Psoriasis HealthCentral Facebook page where she shares timely tips, stories and insights on living with psoriasis. You can also find Alisha on Twitter.