Your Skin Provides Clues of Your Well-Being
The skin is often taken for granted. However, it is the body’s largest and one of the most vital organs. Without it, we cannot survive. The skin functions to provide protection from ultraviolet light, infection, and dehydration. It maintains body temperature regulation and produces vitamin D. The skin helps us communicate with our surroundings as it is the organ of touch and reception. The skin also provides clues about our internal health.
Severe stress and illness raise insulin levels. These conditions are associated with multiple skin findings, including acne. Uncontrolled acne may also be a clue that dietary choices should be improved. Recent studies report that acne is associated with the intake of processed and sugary foods with a high glycemic index. Traditional acne treatments include topical retinoids which help to normalize the skin’s exfoliation cycle and topical antibiotics to rid the skin of bacteria that contribute to acne formation. More severe cases of acne may require oral therapies. Cosmetic procedures such as Aerolase Neo laser and chemical peels also are effective acne treatments. To enhance the effectiveness of medical and cosmetic therapies, a diet consisting mostly unprocessed foods with a low glycemic index is also recommended.
Excessive hair shedding, called telogen effluvium, is associated with multiple medical conditions. Thinning hair may be due to hormonal changes, anemia, thyroid disease, lupus, nutritional deficiencies, eating disorders, medication, depression, and severe stress. Successful hair loss therapy includes treating the underlying condition. To help combat hair loss, preparations consisting of minoxidil and corticosteroids are often used. Platelet rich plasma injections is a natural and promising hair regrowth therapy that provides a nutrient enriched environment that supports folliclular health. Hair loss can result in emotional distress. Therefore, the whole person must be treated. Adequate sleep, rest, exercise is also included in an effective treatment regimen aimed to regrow hair.
Diabetes is also associated with skin changes. One common finding is acanthosis nigricans. This is described as thick and darkened skin on the posterior neck, underarms, inner thighs, and cheeks. This condition is rarely genetic but is most commonly due to excess weight leading to increased insulin production and resistance. Treatment for this condition includes eating foods with a low glycemic index and exercise. Difficult to control bacterial and fungal skin infections can be a sign of elevated blood sugars. Scleredema, hard and thick skin of the back, is a sign of diabetes. Granuloma annulare, itching, and skin changes on the legs and feet can also be seen with diabetes. Ulcers on the legs and feet can develop due to poor circulation associated with long standing diabetes.
Thyroid disease can cause increased sweating or skin dryness, hair loss of the scalp and eyebrows, skin changes on the legs, itching, and changes of the nails. Signs of lupus includes skin sensitivity to the sun, a rash, changes around the nails. Vasculitis, or inflammation of blood vessels, can also be seen in autoimmune disorders such as lupus. Skin findings can also be seen in metabolic conditions such as gout, high cholesterol, and nutritional disorders. Skin and nail changes can provide a clue to dysfunction of the liver, kidneys, pancreas, and lungs. In rare cases, internal malignancies can be associated with skin findings.
The skin is an amazing organ. Its purpose it to provide protection. It also provides important clues to our general health and should not be ignored. For a skin consultation, schedule an appointment with Dr. Katina Byrd Miles, founder and Medical Director of Skin Oasis Dermatology, www.skinoasisderm.com.
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