What are the signs of skin problems?
Skin symptoms include a variety of different skin problems, including rash, itchy skin, dry skin, tingling, temperature changes, blisters, and discoloration. Skin symptoms can be caused by a wide variety of mild to serious diseases, disorders and conditions. Many skin symptoms are the result of inflammatory or infectious disorders of the skin, but they can also accompany internal diseases, such as thyroid conditions and bleeding disorders. Skin symptoms can affect a small area or the full body and occur in all age groups and populations.
Types of skin symptoms
Some skin symptoms that you may have include:
Bleeding or easy bruising
Change in appearance of a mole
Dry, scaly, peeling or flaking skin
Hair (loss or gain)
Itchy or irritated skin
Lumps or bumps
Rash or hives (raised skin bump or welt)
Sore that does not heal
Texture changes, such as raised, thickened, or thin skin that tears or bruises easily
Thickening, plaque formation
Depending on the cause, skin symptoms can begin suddenly and disappear quickly, such as a localized allergic reaction to an ointment. Skin symptoms that persist over a relatively long period of time may be due to more serious or chronic conditions, such as psoriasis, chronic eczema (atopic dermatitis), or poor circulation.
Skin symptoms can be caused by a serious, potentially life-threatening condition, such as an allergic reaction, infection, or cancer. A rash of tiny purple spots on the skin can be due to meningitis or allergic purpura, both of which can be life threatening. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have a rash of tiny purple spots, hives or rash accompanied by wheezing, shortness of breath, or swelling of the face, mouth, tongue or throat. If you do not have these symptoms, but your skin condition is persistent or cause for concern, seek prompt medical care.
What other symptoms might occur with skin symptoms?
Skin symptoms can occur in isolation or with other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Other symptoms can affect the digestive tract, respiratory system, nervous system, reproductive system, cardiovascular system, endocrine system, or immune system. For example, many autoimmune disorders are associated with skin symptoms as well as joint pain, dry or bloodshot eyes, and fatigue.
Other symptoms that may occur with skin symptoms
Skin symptoms may occur with symptoms related to other body systems including:
Numbness or burning sensation in the lower legs and feet
Red or dry eyes
Unexplained weight gain or loss
Weakness or muscle fatigue
Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition
In some cases, skin symptoms may occur with other symptoms that might indicate a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of the following symptoms:
Bluish discoloration of the lips and nails (cyanosis)
Difficulty breathing, wheezing, or shortness of breath
Gray coloring, pallor (extreme paleness), or mottling of skin
High fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit)
Internal bleeding symptoms including blood in vomit, stools or urine
Rash that develops rapidly after taking a new medication
Respiratory or breathing problems, such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing or inability to breathe, labored breathing, wheezing, or choking
Swelling of the mouth, lips, tongue or throat
What causes skin symptoms?
Many different diseases, disorders and conditions cause a variety of skin symptoms, including allergic reactions, infections, autoimmune disorders, and other abnormal processes.
Infectious causes of skin symptoms include bacterial or fungal infections as well as viral infections, such as roseola. Autoimmune causes of skin symptoms, particularly rashes and dry skin, include systemic lupus erythematosus and Sjogren’s syndrome. Other immune-related disorders include allergic reactions, psoriasis, and rosacea. Skin symptoms can also be due to very serious or life-threatening illnesses, such as melanoma (a type of skin cancer), an anaphylactic allergic reaction, or a bleeding disorder. In some cases, the underlying cause cannot be determined.
Infectious causes of skin symptoms
Skin symptoms may be caused by a variety of infectious diseases including:
Cellulitis (bacterial or fungal infection of the skin and surrounding tissues)
Folliculitis (infection of a hair follicle)
Impetigo (bacterial infection of the uppermost layers of skin)
MRSA skin infection (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection)
Shingles (viral infection)
Tinea (superficial dermatophyte fungus – many types)
Allergic causes of skin symptoms
Skin symptoms may be caused by an allergic reaction including:
Eczema (atopic dermatitis) including chronic eczema
Scabies (allergic reaction to mite bites)
Autoimmune and inflammatory causes of skin symptoms
Skin symptoms may be caused by autoimmune and inflammatory disorders including:
Psoriasis (chronic skin disorder involving overproduction of skin cells)
Rosacea (chronic inflammatory skin disorder)
Sjogren’s syndrome (autoimmune disorder in which your immune system attacks the moisture-producing glands in the body)
Systemic lupus erythematosus (disorder in which the body attacks its own healthy cells and tissues)
Vasculitis (inflammation of blood vessels)
Parasites or insects that cause skin symptoms
Skin symptoms may be caused by parasites or insects including:
Fleas and ticks
Mosquitoes (mosquitoes also carry parasitic diseases)
Other causes of skin symptoms
Skin symptoms can be caused by other underlying conditions or diseases including:
Heat (rash or red skin)
Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
Psychogenic skin eruptions
Raynaud’s phenomenon (spasms of small blood vessels of the fingers and toes, reducing blood circulation). Raynaud’s phenomenon is secondary to many autoimmune disorders such as lupus.
Life-threatening causes of skin symptoms
In some cases, skin symptoms may accompany a serious or life-threatening condition, including an allergic reaction resulting in anaphylactic shock. Life-threatening conditions include:
Allergic purpura (severe allergic reaction with bleeding under the skin)
Bleeding disorder, such as hemophilia or thrombocytopenic purpura
Blood circulation problems, such as peripheral artery disease (PAD)
Erythema multiforme (type of allergic reaction)
Organ disease or failure of major organs, such as the heart, liver or kidney
Meningitis (infection or inflammation of the sac around the brain and spinal cord)
Septic shock and other forms of shock
Toxic epidermal necrolysis
Questions for diagnosing the cause of skin symptoms
To diagnose the underlying cause of skin symptoms, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions about your symptoms. Providing complete answers to these questions will help your provider in diagnosing the cause of your skin symptoms:
Describe all diseases and conditions in your medical history and list all the medications, supplements, and herbal drugs you are taking. Do you smoke? How much do you drink?
Do you have any other symptoms?
Have you been in recent contact with any unusual substances or environments, such as being exposed to chemicals or unusual plants, taking new medications or supplements, or traveling to a foreign country?
Have you had similar symptoms before?
What do the skin changes look like?
When did the skin symptoms first appear and in what area of the skin?
Complications associated with skin symptoms can be progressive and vary depending on the underlying cause. Because skin symptoms can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in complications and permanent damage. It is important to visit your health care provider when you experience any type of persistent or recurrent skin symptoms. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, following the treatment plan outlined by your doctor can lower your risk of potential complications including:
Adverse effects of treatment
Bacterial or fungal infection of the skin
Chronic pain or discomfort
Diminished overall quality of life
Embarrassment and low self-esteem
Meningitis (infection or inflammation of the sac around the brain and spinal cord)
Organ failure or dysfunction
Open sores and lesions
Permanent change in skin texture and scarring
Permanent skin discoloration
Respiratory arrest from anaphylactic shock
Skin breakdown from scratching