Besides the skin that covers the entire body and face, other structures such as the eyes, mouth, and nose can provide clues about one’s health. Size, color, shape, marks, lumps, and scars all tell a story. Let’s look at the skin, for starters.
Color of Skin
- Redness all over can be a sign of acute alcohol use, intense exercise, sunburn, or even dermatitis or allergies.
- A yellow hue can be due to jaundice and is usually associated with yellowing of the white part of the eyes. Jaundice is due to liver dysfunction or hepatitis. Localized yellow areas can represent a resolving bruise, but those are usually mottled with purple and brown areas.
- Rashes are usually red, and when a rash covers the cheeks and nose in a butterfly shape, it could represent lupus, an autoimmune disorder. Rashes can be patchy or blotchy from dermatitis or rocasea. Post-herpetic neuralgia is similar to shingles, except it is located on the face and is very painful. Rashes could signify a fungal, viral, or bacterial infection such as measles or impetigo.
- Pale skin can be due to anemia or when someone is about to pass out.
- Bluish lips signify cold.
Texture of Skin
Thickened skin can be related to systemic sclerosis (SSc) or gigantism. SSc can also present as tightened skin, a pinched nose, and tiny broken blood vessels. People with gigantism or acromegaly often have coarse facial features and an enlarged tongue with a forehead that grows outward like Herman Munster:
Flakiness is due to dry skin and may be related to an underlying thyroid condition. If the area is localized, it could be actinic keratosis, a precursor to skin cancer called basal cell carcinoma. This is caused by sun damage.
Thinning of Skin
This can be a sign of aging or chronic steroid use.
Hirsutism is excess hair growth on the face in women, such as on the chin, upper lip and sideburns. It is due to excess androgens like testosterone, which is a feature of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is associated with insulin resistance, acne, infertility, and obesity.
Acne is a sign of excess androgen production, excess sebum, and inflammation, and can be a symptom of PCOS.
Bulging eyes are a sign of excess thyroid hormone found in Graves’ disease.
Facial drooping, if one-sided, is often a sign of a stroke or nerve damage. It may be associated with drooling and an inability to blink or make tears. Bell’s palsy is the most common cause of facial drooping or inability to move part of the face, and it is usually due to a virus.
Velvet plaques, also called acanthosis nigricans, are often found in people with diabetes and usually appear on the neck, armpits, and groin.
Freckles and age spots are found in fair-skinned people who are exposed to a lot of sunlight.
Moles are benign growths in most cases. but if any or the following features apply to your moles, seek help: Asymmetry, irregular borders, dark coloring and multiple colors, diameter bigger than a pea, or evolving or growing. These are called the ABCDEs and help you identify signs of melanoma.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell cancers are usually colorless or pink with a pearly hue and sunken center, but they can also be flattened reddish spots.