Your skin can sometimes show signs of what’s happening inside your body, from diabetes to cancer, tick bites, and more.
1. What your skin shows
As your body’s largest organ, your skin is a window into your health. “All of our organ systems are related,” says Whitney High, MD, associate professor of dermatology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver. What’s going on in your body sometimes affects your skin—and vice versa. The thing is, doctors don’t need special equipment to see your skin, so it can be very telling when it comes to what’s happening inside the body, to your health. Here are some strange skin problems that could be a sign of a serious disease.
A few of these skin growths here or there is normal, but numerous skin tags that begin popping up could indicate type 2 diabetes. They’re spurred on by insulin-like growth factor 1, a protein involved in diabetes that stimulates skin overgrowth, says Rachel Reynolds, MD, a dermatologist with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts. Other signs of type 2 include increased thirst, slow healing wounds, and increased hunger.
3. You’re breaking out like crazy
Adult acne is so common, but when it’s a fairly new development, pay attention. It’s a skin change that could be a sign of a serious disease; skin changes like acne can be a symptom of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal imbalance that the PCOS Awareness Association says affects 10 million women worldwide. When a woman’s body makes excess “male” hormones called androgens, it’s often accompanied by an increase in acne. Your doctor may suspect PCOS if you have acne along with irregular periods or acne that flares up just before your period, says Dr. Reynolds. Even if PCOS isn’t behind your breakouts, your acne may be saying something else about your body.