Although changes in your hair, skin, or nails usually mean that your beauty regimen may need an adjustment, they could also be indicative of an underlying medical problem. Part II addresses common changes in your skin that might even reveal your overall health and well-being.
1. Dry, Cracked Lips
While weather and frequent lip-licking are the most common cause of dry, cracked lips, an allergy to health and beauty products (lipstick or toothpaste) could also cause this uncomfortable—and often painful—condition. But, if you develop specific redness, scaling or fissuring at the corners of your mouth, you could have angular cheilitis (perleche), an easily treated fungal infection that is sometimes associated with a vitamin deficiency or a chronic illness. Treatment may include topical ointment or medications, such as antibiotics and antifungals.
2. Nail Changes
Discoloration, dark spots, changes in your nail shape or clubbing can be signs of issues below the nail’s surface such as deficiencies, lupus, and liver disease. See your doctor to discover the cause of these troublesome changes.
3. Puffy, Irritated Eyelids
Allergies often cause puffy, swollen eyes. However, if the irritation is accompanied by a rash, you could be suffering from eczema or contact dermatitis caused by an irritating product such as soap, eye makeup, and sponge applicators.
4. Thinning Hair
Many dermatologists believe that the number one cause of hair loss is female and male pattern baldness—attributable to both genetics and hormones. In men, thinning typically begins at the hairline, while in women it can start as thinning that begins on the top of the head or center of the scalp.
5. Hair Loss
Distinct, round patches of hair loss both on your head and body can signal an autoimmune disease called alopecia areata. It often has a genetic component and can occur in otherwise healthy individuals. Dramatic and sudden hair loss, called telogen effluvium, is commonly caused by things like childbirth, severe psychological stress, high fever, infection or a major illness, but hair will generally grow back.
6. Flaky Scalp
An itchy, flaky scalp can be caused by seborrheic dermatitis, a common scalp condition that results in stubborn dandruff, scaly patches and red skin. But, if your scalp is extremely flaky and irritated, you could be suffering from psoriasis. Psoriasis, a chronic inflammatory skin condition, is often associated with psoriatic arthritis or an increased risk of heart disease.
7. Unusual Hair Growth
Genetics and hormones play a dominant role in unwanted hair growth. However, unwanted hair that’s sprouting up in classically male areas, such as around the chin or just below your bellybutton, could be a sign of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). If you’re exhibiting other symptoms of PCOS such as an inability to lose weight despite diet and exercise or irregular periods, you should consult your doctor.
8. Visible Veins
Unsightly veins aren’t merely cosmetic. Spider veins on your face can be caused by excessive straining or rosacea. But, spider veins or varicose veins on your legs can be a signal of internal circulatory issues caused by age, weight and genetics—and could indicate future health concerns.
Your body bruises more easily with age because the capillaries are closer to the surface as your skin thins. But, frequent unexplained bruising or bruises that don’t heal could signal a clotting or bleeding disorder such as hemophilia. Although medications like blood thinners can also contribute to bruises, speak to a doctor if you have large, unexplained bruising or new bruises after starting a medication.
10. Cuts that Won’t Heal
A cut or wound that is slow to heal could signal a possible skin infection. Other causes include skin cancer (basal or squamous cell carcinoma), a blood clotting disorder, or diabetes.
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, I highly recommend that you see your health care provider or a dermatologist. Yearly full body exams with a dermatologist can help diagnose and treat skin issues before they get out of hand. Don’t wait until it is too late!