20 Skin Symptoms That Indicate More Serious Health Issues

Don't let these potentially serious skin issues go unchecked.

Your skin is your largest organ, one that protects you from the elements and can even alert you to danger, thanks to the 1,000 nerve endings it packs per inch. However, for many of us, our skincare routine rarely goes beyond the aesthetic. And, unfortunately, if you're not doing your due diligence by routinely checking your skin, you may be ignoring potentially serious health issues.

So, how do you know if it's just irritation or something more? Make sure you have these 20 skin symptoms that indicate more serious health issues committed to memory and check in with your doctor if anything seems amiss. And when you want to keep your skin looking healthy and useful, the 30 Best Ways to Have Your Best Skin will make a flawless complexion well within reach.

Lower Leg Rash

best skin

If you have suddenly developed light brown scaly patches on your skin, particularly on the front of your shins, it's time to talk to your doctor. According to the American Diabetes Association, painless brownish scales on the lower legs are often a sign of diabetic dermopathy, a condition caused by diabetes-associated changes to the blood vessels. And when you want to keep yourself healthy for good, make sure you know the 9 Medical Tests You Should Always Demand from Your Doctor.

Blue Skin

Blue skin circulation issue

Everyone feels blue from time to time, but if you look blue, it's time to check in with an MD. If your skin has taken on a blue tint, you may be suffering from cyanosis, or inadequate blood oxygen levels. Luckily, the 10 Surefire Signs Your Heart is Super Strong might just prove you're in better health than you expected.

Scaly Patches

Skin cancer

While most people think of moles and freckles as the most common signs of skin cancer, they only tell one part of the story. Squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common type of skin cancer, often begins with scaly patches on the skin, or growths similar to warts. And for more cutting-edge health advice, here's how to know if you're allergic to certain sounds. 

Darkened Skin

Diabetes insulin bottle

If your skin has become uncharacteristically dark and feels almost velvety, it's important to see your doctor right away. This could be a sign of acanthosis nigrans, a diabetes-related skin condition that can indicate excess insulin in the bloodstream.


HIV blood test

If you have purple or brown lesions on your legs, face, or any of your mucous membranes, it could be a sign of something more serious. Kaposi's sarcoma, a type of skin cancer that often affects people with HIV, often begins with lesions in these areas. And for more skincare advice, here are 20 Things Your Dermatologist Won't Tell You.


bruise aspirin side effects

Bruises are most often signs of injury to the skin, but if every touch seems to leave a mark, it's time to get some bloodwork done. Frequent bruising is often a sign of iron-deficiency anemia, a condition in which the blood lacks an adequate supply of red blood cells.

If untreated, this can lead to fatigue, weakness, dizziness, a lack of appetite, and chest pain. And when you want healthier, more radiant skin, start with the 20 Best Ways to Erase Wrinkles.


woman ice eyes

If eyelid infections are plaguing you, it's time to ask your doctor to check your blood sugar levels. Diabetes can weaken the immune system, making those with the condition susceptible to infections, including styes on the eyelid.

A Red Rash on Your Torso, Extremities, or Face

Scarlet fever rash

If you haven't seen the sun in months, but your arms, legs, and torso still look burned, it could be a sign of scarlet fever. This bacterial illness, which commonly accompanies a strep infection, often causes a sunburn-like rash on the torso and extremities, flushing, and may even make your tongue look irritated or white.

Asymmetrical Moles

Asymmetrical moles

Keeping yourself safe from skin cancer starts with the ABCDEs. If you have an asymmetrical mole, one with an irregular border, one that's a variety of colors, one that's got a diameter larger than a pencil eraser, or one that's evolving from its original state, you may have melanoma. Make sure you check in with your doctor at least once a year for a full-body scan.

Broken Blood Vessels

Man with cold

While broken blood vessels can be the result of injury, they can also be a sign of something more serious. Broken blood vessels, particularly those on the face, shoulders, chest, and back, can be a sign of liver damage, which quickly become fatal.

Thick, Tight Skin on Fingers

Hands with Rheumatoid Arthritis

If the skin on your fingers feels tight and stiff, it's time for a blood test. Tight, thickened skin can be a symptom of scleroderma, a collection of autoimmune diseases, or digital sclerosis, a diabetes-associated skin condition.

A Butterfly-Shaped Rash

Butterfly rash

Everybody's skin gets flushed from time to time, but a permanently-flushed face could be a sign of something serious. Lupus often manifests as a red, sometimes scaly butterfly-shaped rash across the nose and cheeks. And when you want to stay healthier in the long run, start with the 40 Ways to Never Get Sick After 40.


Itching arm

Everything from wool sweaters to winter weather can make your skin itchy, but sometimes, there's a more serious underlying cause to that uncomfortable itch. If your skin itches and nothing seems to make it better, check in with your doctor. Persistent itching can often be a sign that something is amiss with your gallbladder.

Pitted Skin

Breast check

If you've noticed that the skin around your breasts has developed a pitted appearance, it's time to get to the doctor. Sudden dimpling of the skin on or around the breasts, also known as peau d'orange, can be a sign of breast cancer.

Yellowing of Skin

Yellow skin

That yellowish tint to your skin may be more than just a spray tan gone wrong. In many cases, when your skin has adopted a yellow hue, it's a symptom of jaundice, or an excess of bilirubin, a waste product created by the breakdown of hemoglobin, in your bloodstream.

Patchy Discoloration

Scaly patch psoriasis

Patchy discoloration on your skin definitely merits a mention to your doctor. This is often a sign of psoriasis, which, while generally more annoying than dangerous, can lead to arthritic joint pain, skin infections, and in the case of complications or erythrodermic psoriasis, even death.


Hives on arm

Don't brush off those hives as a minor inconvenience—they could be a sign of a potentially fatal reaction. Hives can be an early indicator of a serious allergy, putting you at risk for anaphylactic shock if left untreated.

Dry, Itchy Skin

dry skin hands

Dealing with dry skin no moisturizer can touch? Head to your doctor, not a drugstore. Dry, itchy skin can often be an indication of diabetes, thanks to the reduced circulation and infections that often accompany the disease.


Abscess aspiration

If you're dealing with an unpleasant abscess, don't play doctor and try to deal with it yourself. Abscesses are often a symptom of a staph infection, which can damage your vital organs, potentially killing you, if not taken care of in an expeditious manner.

Slow Wound Healing

Bandaging wound

When that cut on your hand from a month ago still looks as fresh as the day you got it, it's time to make an appointment with your doctor. Slow wound healing is often a sign of diabetes, thanks to the condition's immune system- and circulation-weakening abilities. And when you want to make your whole body healthier, start with the 40 Unhealthiest Foods if You're Over 40!

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Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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