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What Your Skin Says About Your Health

From mysterious rashes to bumps and discolorations, here's what you need to look for.

Written by Harvard Health Publications

As any teenager knows, skin problems can be embarrassing. But did you know that the condition of your skin may also be a window into any illnesses you might have? From mysterious rashes to bumps and discolorations, here's what you need to look for before you reach for that bottle of concealer:

Yellow skin.

Having skin with a somewhat yellow-orange tone can mean you've either been using the wrong kind of self-tanner or you're eating too many carrots (if you are, your palms will be yellow-orange also). But the real test is in the eyes. Do the whites of your eyes also have a yellowish hue? It could be a sign of liver disease, so see your doctor.


A skin condition that causes thick red skin with flaky white patches, psoriasis also may be a marker of inflammation elsewhere in the body. According to Harvard Medical School researchers, people who suffer from moderate to severe psoriasis have a 28 percent higher risk of heart disease and almost 12 percent greater risk of stroke than people without psoriasis. And 5 percent of psoriasis sufferers also have psoriatic arthritis, which causes joint pain, stiffness, and swelling.


According to Dr. Brodell, most times acne is benign. However, in some women it signals polycystic ovary disease, or PCOS. With this disease, which is estimated to affect up to 10 percent of women, hormone levels are unbalanced. As a result, eggs are not released from the ovaries but instead become fluid-filled sacs. Common symptoms include oily, pimple-ridden skin, excessive body hair, and extra weight. Complications can include difficulty getting pregnant and, later, a higher risk of heart disease. PCOS can be managed with lifestyle changes and certain medications. If you think you might have PCOS, talk to your gynecologist.


Facial redness can be caused by sun exposure, exertion, or, less commonly, by the autoimmune disorder lupus. Characterized by a butterfly-shaped rash across the cheeks and bridge of the nose, lupus can be a life-threatening disorder that requires prompt treatment.

Article Reviewed: November 16, 2013
Copyright © 2014 Healthy Magazine

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