For many, summertime involves playing outside and having fun in the sun. While taking part in outdoor activities made possible with good weather, it is important that we also take time to appreciate the system that protects us while we do it. The skin is critical to our health and woefully underappreciated. This important organ supports the body in a variety of ways, including defense against environmental toxins, improved oxygenation of cells, reduced sun damage, and many others. Keeping the skin healthy doesn’t only provide aesthetic benefits but it supports better health as well.
If one is not aware of the signs and symptoms of poor skin health, they run the risk of experiencing painful, frustrating, and sometimes debilitating conditions. Being aware of the many signs and indicators of skin disease and some of the associated conditions can help one keep their skin looking and functioning at its best. Recognizing the symptoms of skin-related conditions and knowing how to resolve them helps skin stay happy and healthy.
Signs and Symptoms of Skin Disease
Skin conditions can result in symptoms ranging from mild irritation and redness of the skin to aggressive hair loss and severe dryness. Part of the difficulty of properly diagnosing skin conditions is that they have many overlapping symptoms. The following paragraphs give a brief peek at a variety of skin conditions, their symptoms, and means of treatment.
There are two categories of skin irritation that fall under the title of dermatitis; contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis. The two branches present various similar symptoms such as skin rash, itchiness, and irritation. Although similar, the two categories of dermatitis have unique qualities.
Irritant contact dermatitis results from, as the name would suggest, bodily contact with a skin irritating substance. Symptoms of contact dermatitis can appear anywhere from 12 to 72 hours after encountering irritants. The home contains many substances that can cause one to experience skin irritation. Common culprits include:
- Household chemicals such as cleaning supplies
- Waxes such as those used for cars and flooring
- Strong detergents
- Wet diapers
- Certain foods including some strains of peppers
The risk of experiencing allergen irritants generally increases during spring and summer because plants are blooming and people spend more time outside. Symptoms of allergic contact dermatitis occur in a similar fashion to contact dermatitis. However, the trigger is an immune response rather than dermal reaction. In severe cases of allergic contact dermatitis, one may experience an anaphylactic reaction which can significantly impact breathing ability. Immune triggering substances to be on the lookout for include:
- Preservatives like formaldehyde
- Rubber materials
- Tattoo ink and black henna
- Nickel and other metals
Because skin irritation can be caused by such a wide range of common substances it may seem impossible to prevent dermatitis reactions. However, there is an effective treatment known as Low Dose Allergen (LDA) which may resolve excessive allergic responses. LDA involves slowly and methodically exposing one’s body to an impressive collection of allergens. This process allows the immune system to build up a tolerance and even resolve a defunct system. Treatments with LDA can help treat conditions triggered by environmental inhalants, food allergies, chronic sinusitis, skin allergies (dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, etc.) and many others.
Thyroid-Related Skin Issues
Thyroid function influences numerous bodily systems including the skin. Depending if one’s thyroid is underactive (hypothyroid) or overactive (hyperthyroid) the skin will be impacted in different ways.
Hypothyroid-related skin conditions include:
- Dry, waxy, or cool skin
- Puffy face and eyelids
- Thickening of the skin in the lower areas of the leg
- Pale or brown skin
- Thinning or brittle hair particularly among the scalp, eyebrows, armpits, and pubic area
Hyperthyroid-related skin conditions include:
- Heat intolerance
- Increased perspiration resulting in moist skin and sweat rashes
- Accelerated hair loss and shedding
- Quickly growing nails and onycholysis (cuticles lifting off the nail bed)
Resolving hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism requires that one’s thyroid hormone production and levels be optimized. In both cases, one may experience skin irritation sometime after thyroid levels are optimized. If skin irritation persists for an extended period, it is best to speak with a physician.
Hypothyroidism is generally treated with thyroid replacement hormone therapy. Balancing one’s thyroid with natural desiccated thyroid, T4, T3, or combination T4-T3 formulations can help optimize thyroid function. Each case is unique and requires individualized care to properly treat a thyroid condition.
Hyperthyroidism is frequently treated with antithyroid medications, beta blockers, radioactive iodine, or surgery. Certain antithyroid medicines can cause an itchy rash but it is often mild. Although it is rare, one may experience hypersensitivity vasculitis, which causes purple bumps on one’s feet and lower legs. If this occurs seek immediate medical attention.
Resolving skin conditions caused by thyroid dysfunction cannot be done through treating individual symptoms. One must rebalance and optimize the thyroid to fully resolve thyroid-related skin conditions.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a common condition that affects nearly 10% of the female population who are at reproductive age. The symptoms of PCOS are impactful and noticeable. This condition is caused by an imbalance of reproductive hormones leading to the development of small fluid-filled cysts in the ovaries. Unfortunately, many do not attribute these symptoms to hormonal issues associated with PCOS. The intense and noticeable skin-related symptoms of PCOS include:
- Hair loss or alopecia
- Darkening of the skin, generally found in the neck, underarms, thighs, and below the breasts
- Skin tags
- Excess hair on the face and body or hirsutism
- Thickening and roughness of skin on the elbows and knees
People frequently attempt to treat the individual symptoms of PCOS with skin care medications that combat acne and hair loss. These treatments provide temporary, immediate relief but they do not offer a long-lasting solution. Without treating underlying hormone dysfunction, the aesthetic and health-impacting symptoms of PCOS cannot be resolved. A comprehensive approach is the only true method of resolving PCOS and the following methods should be considered when pursuing treatment.
- Avoid sugars, processed carbohydrates, trans fats, dairy, hormone disruptors, and growth hormones
- Herbs and teas such as: green tea, white peony, chasteberry, black cohosh, and licorice have shown to be useful in treating PCOS
- Altering one’s lifestyle to optimize fitness, diet, and reduce stress can improve PCOS
- Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy aids hormone balance while also supporting diet, exercise benefits, and reduces the risk of metabolic disease
Health is More than Skin Deep
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and keeping one’s body functioning at its best provides many benefits including greater skin health. Even though it may seem like skin health relies solely on what can be seen on the outside, it is important to know that skin health is impacted by deep bodily systems. Not only is the skin aesthetically important, it is also critical to our health. Regulating one’s hormone levels and recognizing the impact of allergens and skin-irritating substances can help keep skin vibrant and healthy all year long.