Skin and its relation to systemic diseases | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 02, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:13 AM, August 02, 2016

Skin and its relation to systemic diseases

Sometimes we overlook small changes in the skin thinking that it is not important, but they may be signs of some systemic disease. So it is always wise to consult with a dermatologist and get the proper diagnosis.

There are many systemic diseases which manifest themselves on the skin. Also certain chronic diseases which, if not treated properly, will cause skin lesions.

We have seen that patients who are obese develop darkened velvety skin around the neck, armpits, and other body folds. They will develop stretch marks on their body, may develop fluid retention in the legs, rupture leg veins and develop varicose veins. 

Retained moisture in the body folds leads to bacterial and fungal infection of the skin. With proper treatment, nutrition and weight loss, usually these conditions resolve.

Patients suffering from diabetes are also very prone to different types of skin disorders. This happens mainly if blood sugar is uncontrolled. These patients are more prone to bacterial and fungal infections like impetigo and candida. Usually the impetigo infections appear as round oozing patches which may grow larger day by day on the exposed part of the body, and also may become crusted.

Candidiasis is also common in diabetic patients. Although candida is a common organism in our digestive tract, it manifests as oral ulcers when blood sugar is high and patient is immune-compromised. Diseases like diabetic dermopathy are also common, where there is a light brown patch over the shin area, which is also very itchy.

Foot ulcers are also common in diabetics. These are due to neuropathic and vascular complications of the disease. Due to peripheral neuropathy, diabetics lose pain sensation, mainly in the foot/legs. Pressure from shoes, cuts, injuries will not be felt and spread leading to ulceration. If not cared for properly, then the ulcer can spread and lead to fatal consequences. Smoking aggravates the condition. Diabetic patients with uncontrolled blood sugar are also prone to secondary infections of the skin. So patients should take care to control blood sugar, not to smoke, take regular care of skin ulcers, practice nail and foot care.

There are some other common systemic diseases which have skin manifestations.

Hyperlipidemia 

Here the patient may show manifestations like Xanthelasma, characterised by flat yellowish deposits around the eyelids. In other parts of the body, they appear as roundish papules or nodules. These can be treated by excision of the lesions.

Cutaneous presentation of patients suffering from liver disease show yellow colouration if jaundice is present; there may also be itching of the skin, depending on type.

In case of hypothyroidism, the patient's skin may become cool, doughy, dry and puffy. Also there may be hair loss and periorbital oedema.

In hyperthyroidism, the skin is warm, moist and there may be flushing of the skin and pretibial oedema.

It is very important to take care of our skin by keeping it clean, and properly moisturised.  Sometimes we overlook small changes in the skin thinking that it is not important, but they may be signs of some systemic disease. So it is always wise to consult with a dermatologist and get the proper diagnosis.

Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed

Model: Mousum

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