The skin is the largest organ in your body and although the skin is on the outside, changes in your hair, skin or nails can be a sign that something is happening on the inside. The condition of your skin can be a sign of an underlying medical condition such as diabetes, cholesterol, eczema, thyroid disease, PCOS, liver or kidney disease and even some cancers.

What your skin says about your health

What should you be looking out for? 

Dry or itchy skin 

It is not uncommon for your skin to feel dry or itchy, especially in the winter. People with chronic skin conditions like eczema experience these symptoms more often and more severely. In some cases, the itching is due to an underlying condition. For example, diabetes, lymphoma, opioid abuse and thyroid disease can cause dry or itchy skin. 


Breakouts are normal during puberty and often persist into adulthood. New acne or really severe acne that you did not have before can sometimes indicate an underlying hormonal abnormality, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). 

Unusual hair growth 

Unwanted hair sprouting in classic male locations such as the chin or below the belly button could be a sign of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). But genetics and hormones also play a role in hair growth. If you are concerned or have other symptoms of PCOS (such as an inability to lose weight despite diet and exercise, or irregular periods), you should see a doctor to rule out PCOS. 

Dark circles 

Dark under eyes can be a combination of genetic factors, age and lifestyle. As you age, the fat pads and structural support around the eyes change with age, making the hollows more noticeable. Dark skin under the eyes can also be caused by a nutritional deficiency, lack of hydration or insufficient sleep. 

Skin discolouration 

If other areas of your skin or your eyes look yellowish or orange, this could be a sign of kidney or liver disease. Brown or tan spots on your shins may be a sign that your blood is not circulating well. Remember that these discolourations may look slightly different depending on your skin tone. For example, rashes on people of colour may appear darker or have a purple hue. 

Sun spots 

Freckles and dark spots are a measure of your lifetime sun damage. Most sun damage occurs in childhood and teenage years and can increase your risk for skin cancer. Watch for any changes in your skin, from moles to raised lesions or sores that will not heal. 

Excess fuzz (fine white hairs) 

Sometimes internal cancers such as lung or ovarian cancer can cause skin symptoms. A condition called Acquired Hypertrichosis Lanuginosa is when people develop excessive fine white hairs, usually on the face. 

Increase in sweating 

Warm skin, increased sweating, redness of the palms or facial flushing, along with thinning hair, spooning or concavity of the nails, are all be outward signs of an overactive thyroid. 

Visible veins 

Your veins are an important indicator of your circulatory health. Spider veins or varicose veins on the legs can be a sign of deeper problems with blood flow caused by age, weight, and genetics. However, spider veins on the face can be caused by excessive exertion or rosacea, a chronic skin condition. 

Small bumps around the eyes 

Small yellow bumps that show up around the eyes or nose are called xanthelasma, and they’re made of cholesterol deposits. In about 50% of cases, it’s a sign that you have high cholesterol. 

Purple butterfly-shaped rash 

The classic skin symptom for lupus is a butterfly rash on the cheeks and bridge of the nose. A rash on the face is usually not lupus, but if the rash is purple and near the hairline and you have small patches of hair loss, you should talk to your doctor about a blood test for lupus. 

Nail changes 

If you develop discolouration, dark spots, changes in nail shape, or lumpiness, these may be signs of internal problems beneath the surface, from vitamin deficiencies to lupus to liver disease. 


Frequent unexplained bruising or bruising that does not heal could indicate a bleeding disorder. However, as you age, your body bruises more easily because capillaries are closer to the surface as your skin thins. 

Cuts that won’t heal 

If a cut or wound is slow to heal, it could signal a possible skin infection. Other causes of slow wound healing include skin cancer, a blood clotting disorder, or diabetes. 


Over the years, our skin can undergo a lot of changes and can be a good indicator for not only our skin’s health but our general health overall. It reveals lifestyle habits and can help a medical professional to diagnose underlying illnesses. If you have noticed a change in your skin, hair or nails consult with your doctor. The symptoms of many chronic conditions can be reduced by making lifestyle changes.

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