There is a deep and indisputable connection between your health and the way that your skin looks. If you are healthy on the inside your skin reflects that, and if you are sick there are signs of that as well. At TSLMS we spend a lot of time paying attention to the skin. An enormous number of the procedures that our members perform every year are related to the skin and its appearance. Making the skin look better will not solve underlying health issues, but addressing underlying health issues may help the skin. As well, there is damage that people do to their skin which then reflects back on their underlying health. So, it is all related.
This is an important topic for all of us to pay attention to, as we can be part of the link in saving people’s lives.
The Skin Is Part of the Integumentary System
Dermatologists know when they see skin that is unhealthy. This may be a skin issue, or it could be something else with symptoms showing on the skin. It also could legitimately be both. The skin is, afterall, the largest organ of the body and is connected to and through a number of the body’s systems. Technically, it is part of the integumentary system, as described by InnerBody.com:
The integumentary system is an organ system consisting of the skin, hair, nails, and exocrine glands. The skin is only a few millimeters thick yet is by far the largest organ in the body. The average person’s skin weighs 10 pounds and has a surface area of almost 20 square feet. Skin forms the body’s outer covering and forms a barrier to protect the body from chemicals, disease, UV light, and physical damage. Hair and nails extend from the skin to reinforce the skin and protect it from environmental damage. The exocrine glands of the integumentary system produce sweat, oil, and wax to cool, protect, and moisturize the skin’s surface.
The Integumentary System Connects To All Systems
The skin interacts with all of the other systems in the body. (Source).
The skin is one of the first defense mechanisms in your immune system. Tiny glands in the skin secrete oils that enhance the barrier function of the skin. Immune cells live in the skin and provide the first line of defense against infections.
By helping to synthesize and absorb vitamin D, the integumentary system works with the digestive system to encourage the uptake of calcium from our diet. This substance enters the bloodstream through the capillary networks in the skin. Healthy functioning of your skin also is related to the digestive system because the digestion and assimilation of dietary fats and oils are essential for the body to be able to make the protective oils for the skin and hair.
The integumentary system also works closely with the circulatory system and the surface capillaries through your body. Because certain substances can enter the bloodstream through the capillary networks in the skin, patches can be used to deliver medications in this manner for conditions ranging from heart problems (nitroglycerin) to smoking cessation (nicotine patches).
The skin also is important in helping to regulate your body temperature. If you are too hot or too cold, your brain sends nerve impulses to the skin, which has three ways to either increase or decrease heat loss from the body’s surface: hairs on the skin trap more warmth if they are standing up, and less if they are lying flat; glands under the skin secrete sweat onto the surface of the skin in order to increase heat loss by evaporation if the body is too hot; capillaries near the surface can open when your body needs to cool off and close when you need to conserve heat.
Your skin plays a vital role in your body as regards the sense of touch. The nervous system depends on neurons embedded in your skin to sense the outside world. It processes input from your senses, including touch, and initiates actions based on those inputs. For example, when you stub your toe, nerve cells in the foot send signals up the leg, through the spinal cord, and up into the brain. The nerve cell connections in the brain sense these signals as pain.
If your skin is unwell, chances are so is the rest of your body.
Links Between Your Skin and Your Health
Being as how the skin is so deeply connected to the rest of the body’s systems, it is no surprise that we see symptoms of illness in other systems show up on the skin, and illnesses of the skin impact other systems of the body. WebMD cataloged some of the instances in which a feature showing outwardly can mean an inward problem. Examples include:
- Moles. These are spots or bumps, often dark in color. Most are nothing to worry about, but skin checks can help you spot cancer before it spreads. When it comes to moles, remember your ABCDEs:
- Asymmetrical: Is the shape different on each side?
- Border: Is it jagged?
- Color: Is it uneven?
- Diameter: Is it larger than a pea?
- Evolving: Has it changed in the past few weeks?
- Sores. Ones around your lips and mouth are most likely cold sores, which are caused by the type 1 herpes virus. (Most people with oral herpes were infected from saliva as children or young adults, not from sexual contact.) Once you get the virus, it stays with you. Sores may break out when you’re sick, anxious, or overtired, or you’ve been out in the sun too long.
- Cracked lips. Everyone gets dry or cracked lips from time to time, especially in winter. Balms can help protect them and keep them moist. But sometimes dry lips are a sign of a health issue, like dehydration — when your body doesn’t have enough water. They can also be an allergic reaction or response to a drug, such as steroids.
- Butterfly rash. It covers both cheeks in the shape of a butterfly, and it’s a common sign of lupus. That’s a disease that makes your immune system attack your own tissues and organs. You may also have fever, achy and stiff joints, and fingers that turn blue in the cold.
- Yellow Spots on Your Eyelids. These raised yellow bumps on and around your upper and lower eyelids are called xanthelasma. They’re made of cholesterol, and while you may not like the look of them, they’re not dangerous or painful and usually can be taken off. But they can be a sign that you’re more likely to get heart disease or have a heart attack.
- Melasma. This causes gray-brown patches of skin on your face. Doctors don’t know exactly why it happens, but it can be triggered by things like pregnancy or taking certain birth control pills. In those cases, melasma often fades on its own after the baby is born or the woman stops taking the pills. In other cases, it can last for years. But medicines and other treatments, like chemical peels, can help.