12 Feb What Your Skin May Tell You About Your Heart Health
February is all about love… and your heart! This year marks the 56th annual American Heart Month. Did you know that heart disease is the number killer of both men and women in America? It’s so pervasive that Americans dedicate an entire month to education and awareness around heart health. But did you know that your skin might give you clues about your heart health? Keep reading to learn more about skin symptoms that might be connected to heart disease.
What is heart disease?
Heart disease encompasses a host of conditions. Some of these include arrythmias, heart rhythm problems; circulatory issues, like coronary artery disease; heart defects and congenital heart defects; and cardiovascular disease, including heart attack, stroke, blocked vessels and more. With this broad definition of heart disease, there are many symptoms and warning signs that may indicate damage or issues with the heart.
Heart disease and skin health
Sometimes, it’s hard to make a connection between your symptoms. If you have nail problems, the first thing you think might not be heart disease, but there are actually several skin symptoms that may indicate heart problems. Part of the purpose of Heart Month is to educate patients on the warning signs of heart disease, so we’ve compiled just a few of the most common skin problems that connect to the heart, including swelling, change in skin color, patterned skin, nail problems and growths or sudden rashes.
Swelling in the legs
Swelling in the legs is a heart disease warning sign you might know, as it’s one of the most common. This swelling is particularly common for diabetic patients and can indicate improper heart function. Edema, the medical term for swelling, is a fluid build-up that could be caused by poor circulation or a blood clot. Sudden swelling not caused by an injury is a sign of rapid fluid build-up that should be addressed by a medical professional quickly, to ensure the heart is functioning properly.
Blue, gray or purple skin
Blood vessels are part of the circulatory system and run throughout the body. Arteries, capillaries and veins are all types of blood vessels that make a network to carry blood away from the heart and circulate it through the body. Blue, gray or purple skin is often a sign of circulatory issues. This usually occurs on the extremities, like fingers and toes. For example, if your toe turns blue, especially if you’re not cold, you may have a block blood vessel. This blockage means your body is not circulating oxygen-rich blood properly, which could be a sign of heart disease or a congenital—meaning present at birth—heart condition.
“Lace” pattern on skin
This symptom usually presents as a lace- or net-like pattern on the skin, which is usually blue or purple. While this isn’t always a sign of heart disease, it can indicate cholesterol problems. Cholesterol is essential to life; however, when the body has too-high levels of cholesterol, fatty deposits can build up in the blood vessels, blocking blood flow. These fatty deposits are called plaque. When this happens, a lacy pattern may show on the skin, which is the built-up plaque breaking off in the blood vessels.
It might seem odd, but nail issues are often related to the heart. Two of the most common symptoms include downward turned nails—often combined with “clubbed” fingers—and lines under the nails. Downturned nails and clubbed fingers might not be serious; however, sometimes it might indicate a lung condition or heart disease. Likewise, injury often causes bruising or abrasions under the nail. Sometimes, though, if no injury occurred, red or purple lines or spots of blood under the nails may indicate heart disease, diabetes or a heart infection (endocarditis).
Growths on the skin or yellow/orange rash
A rash that comes on suddenly and generally looks yellow or orange could be a sign of diabetes or extremely high cholesterol levels. Much like the lacy pattern, these bumps are often a sign of fatty deposits, or plaque, in the blood vessels. While this can occur anywhere, it’s most commonly seen on fingers, toes, knuckles and backsides. Similarly, if larger, waxy growths appear on the skin, it may be a sign that there are protein deposits in your organs. This can occur around the heart, inhibiting its function.
To sum it up
If you experience any of these symptoms, you should speak with your doctor, and if you’re having a medical emergency, you should call 911. For more information on Heart Month and to learn the symptoms of heart disease, visit the American Heart Association website. If you have persistent skin concerns, it may also be time to see your board-certified dermatologist. Loven Dermatology provides comprehensive dermatological care and treatment for patients of all ages. To schedule an appointment today, please call 615.859.7546.
At Loven Dermatology and Aesthetics, we are passionate about providing patients in Middle Tennessee with the best dermatological care and service possible. We want to help you look and feel your best. That’s why we proudly offer highly advanced and individualized treatment for a range of skin concerns and needs.
Please call us at 615.859.7546 for more information or to schedule your appointment. You can also schedule your complimentary skin consultation online.