Your skin is an incredibly resilient and intricate organ that often serves as a visible indicator of your overall health. However, it can be challenging to decipher the subtle messages it sends when issues arise. Understanding the common signs of skin problems is crucial for maintaining optimal skin health and catching potential concerns early.
Australia has one of the highest incidences of skin cancer in the world, and it can manifest in many different areas of the body, form as a strange patch or a lump, and affect anywhere from the skin on the head around the hair and eyes down to the feet and toes.
In this comprehensive guide, we will explore surprising signs that your skin might be suffering and delve into expert advice on interpreting these signals. From flaking, redness, peeling and unusual sensitivity, the team at SunDoctors will guide you through cancer prevention and overall sun safety.
1. Persistent Dryness Beyond the Usual
Dry skin is a problem that most people face at some point in their lives. Whether it is caused by the cold, dry air of winter, excessive hot showers, or products that strip away the skin's natural oils, skin dryness usually doesn't last too long and can often be fixed with a soothing moisturiser.
However, skin that consistently displays dryness, flakiness, and excessive oiliness can indicate underlying problems. Eczema, acne, dermatitis and exposure to allergens may be responsible for dry skin, though an experienced skin doctor can determine the precise cause.
While dry, itchy skin may sound like more of an irritating nuisance than an actual health problem, persistent scratching and irritation can lead to sores or scratches, leading to infections and more severe injury.
If you have persistent skin dryness, talk to a doctor experienced in treating skin disorders. They will be able to provide you with a tailored treatment plan, considering your skin type, medical history and existing skincare routine (if any). This may involve changing the environment (keeping out of the sun) or swapping to a mineral sunscreen for use on eczema-prone skin.
2. Unexplained Changes in Skin Texture
If you note a change in your skin texture that you can't explain, it's time to book a skin check immediately to get the underlying cause determined and treated. Skin that has become unexpectedly smooth or rough can signal various issues. This could be a sign of dehydration, a lack of certain nutrients, or other underlying health issues, such as actinic keratosis, which has a small chance of developing into basal cell carcinoma, a common form of skin cancer.
Our skin naturally changes throughout our lifetime, and many skin changes can be attributed to changes in collagen and elastin levels that naturally decline as we age. However, getting a professional opinion from a doctor experienced in diagnosing and treating skin conditions is essential if your skin displays sudden and unexplainable changes.
3. Shifts in Pigmentation That Catch Your Eye
Our skin pigmentation changes throughout our life as exposure to the sun causes sunspots or tanning. While many of these are benign, we should still keep a consistent eye on pigmentation changes in our skin, taking note of what we already have and being aware of any changes, especially sudden changes.
Dark spots and hyperpigmentation, as well as sudden paleness, can all point to the existence of health issues. Dark spots that change shape and size may be symptomatic of developing skin cancers, such as melanoma, while blotchy skin may be a symptom of many skin conditions, including rosacea, psoriasis, eczema or hives. Persistent paleness, on the other hand, may be a symptom of anaemia or blood pressure issues.
If you notice changes in your pigmentation, see your trusted skin doctor as soon as possible. Examining your skin in person will allow the doctor to make an informed diagnosis and get you back to looking and feeling well again. Protecting your skin from UV (ultraviolet) radiation and sunburn is crucial to good skin health. Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF30+ and cover up with a hat, sunglasses and long sleeves during the day.
4. Changes in Sensation: Numbness and Tingling
Sensations such as numbness and tingling are hardly uncommon experiences, but they often have an easily identifiable source. The layers of our skin are threaded with nerves that allow us to feel pressure, heat and pain, so persistent and unexplained tingling or numbness may be a sign of nerve-related issues that require further examination.
Chronic paraesthesia, known more commonly as 'pins and needles', can be a symptom of nerve entrapment syndromes (such as carpal tunnel syndrome), or it can be a result of other more serious conditions affecting the nervous system.
In some cases, numbness, tingling or other skin pain can be a sign of skin cancer, particularly if the sensations occur in an existing skin lesion.
Book an appointment with your local SunDoctors clinic as your first step to determining the cause of your unexplained numbness or tingling.
5. Excessive Itching: Scratching the Surface of a Deeper Issue
Persistent itching and discomfort can be associated with many skin conditions. From environmental causes to stress and dietary causes to autoimmune conditions, the surest way to determine the cause of your excessive itching is by seeing an experienced doctor trained in diagnosing and treating skin disorders and diseases.
A trained skin doctor will be able to identify the potential triggers and causes of the itching. Allergies and irritants are common causes of itchy skin, and it may be something as simple as avoiding a particular plant in the garden or swapping your moisturiser for another without a specific aggravating ingredient in it. It is best to get excessive itching seen quickly, not least for your peace of mind, as itching can also be a sign of certain types of cancer, including skin cancer.
Excessive scratching can also damage the top layers of skin, causing bleeding and a risk of infection.
6. Mysterious Rashes: Decoding Skin Messages
If you've brushed against an irritating plant outside or know you're susceptible to heat rash, blotchy skin might not be a terrible cause for concern. Still, if rashes appear out of the blue for no readily apparent reason, it's time to get your skin checked at your nearest SunDoctors clinic. Rashes can be itchy, raised, blistering or simply exhibit uneven discolouration, depending on the cause.
Different types of rashes may indicate various skin conditions or injuries, so come to your appointment prepared with an idea of where you've been (particularly outdoors), what skin products you use, any changes in the home (such as new laundry powder) or any existing allergies or infections you are already aware of can go a long way to helping your doctor make an informed and accurate diagnosis. They can then tailor a treatment for your specific circumstances to get your skin back to normal as soon as possible.
7. Bumps, Lumps, and Swelling: Understanding the Signs
The sudden appearance of bumps, lumps, and swelling may result from an external or internal cause. Insects or spiders can bite without us being aware. Allergic reactions to mosquitoes and midges can produce large swellings, as can accidentally running into something and bruising yourself. However, skin growths, bumps, and swelling may signify underlying skin issues, and it pays to be sure by seeking professional medical advice.
Monitor the size, shape, and colour of any skin growths, especially if they begin to blister or peel. Bumps and bruises may be accidents or the first warning signs of something more serious. Any changes should be shown to a healthcare professional immediately, who will examine the nature of the growth and determine its cause.
8. Changes in Complexion That Raise Questions
Unexpected skin tone or complexion changes may reflect dietary, lifestyle, or health-related factors. Discolouration that we cannot explain is something to take seriously. A skin healthcare professional should check blemishes that do not fade or grow over time. Changes in complexion can be a sign of skin cancer, such as basal cell carcinoma, which presents as a small red or pink blotch. Changes to moles, freckles or skin patches, particularly if they become sore or itch for no immediately identifiable reason, should never be ignored.
Soothing, non-allergenic moisturisers and consistent sun protection are ways to maintain your skin's healthy, natural complexion. It is important to treat sun exposure seriously and reduce your chance of sunburns and changes in complexion by limiting your exposure to sunlight, especially on parts of the body that are frequently unprotected and exposed to the sun, such as your hands (including your palms) and arms, your legs and feet, and the skin on your face, including your ears!
9. Eczema or Psoriasis Flare-Ups: More Than Just Skin Deep
Eczema and psoriasis are two skin conditions characterised by physical flare-ups of raised, scaly, red, and itchy skin blotches. These can be uncomfortable and unsightly, especially when patches form on the neck, face or scalp (though they can appear anywhere on the body).
Information that your doctor may use to determine the cause (and treatment) of either condition includes lifestyle factors, stress management, or environmental factors. These chronic conditions require consistent and diligent management, and the doctors at SunDoctors will be able to work with you to formulate a long-term treatment plan to keep your skin looking its best.
Additional Expert Insights: Understanding and Addressing Skin Concerns
1. Early Warning Signs of Skin Cancer
An effective way of self-examining your skin is to follow the ABCDE method when inspecting skin spots, moles and other marks:
- A: Asymmetrical moles, spots or lesions are more prone to developing into melanomas.
- B: Borders of moles or spots that are irregular (not round) are at greater risk of becoming cancerous.
- C: Colours that change or are irregular in the same spot should be checked further.
- D: Diameters of spots or moles larger than 6 mm (the size of a pencil eraser) are worth investigating further.
- E: Evolving spots or moles you notice changes in should be checked by a professional as soon as possible.
Any changes in moles or the appearance of new growths should be shown to your local skin doctor immediately.
2. The Importance of Regular Skin Checks
Regular skin checks are crucial for the early detection of potential skin issues, including skin cancer. Any changes in mole shape or colour, the texture of your skin texture, or the presence of any persistent symptoms should be quickly addressed. While the ABCDE method is a good place to start, the only way to be absolutely sure your skin is in good health is to consult a professional skin doctor.
3. When to Consult a Skin Doctor
While not every skin concern requires immediate attention, consulting a skin doctor is highly recommended. It is, as they say, far better to be safe than sorry. Skin doctors are trained to identify the subtle signs of skin issues, which may not be apparent to the untrained eye. Early detection and professional advice are essential for maintaining optimal skin health, so book in with your local SunDoctors today and take control of your skin health and well-being.
Unlock the Secrets Your Skin Reveals
Your skin is a dynamic organ that communicates its well-being through various signs. Ignoring these signals could lead to underlying issues that may impact both your skin and overall health. By staying informed about common signs, conducting regular self-skin checks, and seeking professional advice when needed, you can take proactive steps towards maintaining healthy, radiant skin throughout your life. Remember, your skin is a reflection of your well-being, so listen to its messages and prioritise its care.
Empower your skin health journey with support from SunDoctors. Schedule a comprehensive skin check today and let our expert doctors guide you towards a lifetime of healthy and radiant skin. Don't just hear your skin's messages — understand them with SunDoctors' expertise.
The doctors at SunDoctors are the experts in checking your skin for signs of skin cancer. With skin cancer clinics across QLD, NSW, VIC & SA, make sure you book in to give yourself and your family peace of mind, letting you and your loved ones get back to work and play that much sooner!
Call us on 13 SKIN (13 75 46) or book your appointment online today!