What are skin color changes?

Skin color changes include any discoloration of the skin in a patchy or uniform pattern. Skin color changes can include red, yellow, purple, blue, brown (bronze or tan), white, green, and black coloring or tint to the skin. Skin can also become lighter or darker than normal.

Types of skin color changes

Possible skin color changes include:

  • Blotchy red spots

  • Bruising or bleeding under the skin

  • Change in appearance of a mole or other birthmark

  • Darkening (hyperpigmentation), such as darkening of the facial skin

  • Flushing (redness)

  • Jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes)

  • Mottled or marbled appearance

  • Pale bluish or grayish skin tone (cyanosis), which can also affect the lips and nails

  • Patchy skin color changes, such as patches of white skin (vitiligo)

  • Tiny red or purple spots (petechiae)

  • Unusually light skin color (hypopigmentation)

Pigment-producing cells in the skin called melanocytes give skin its color. Melanocytes produce a pigment called melanin. Lighter skin, or hypopigmented skin, produces less melanin, while darker areas of skin, or hyperpigmented skin, produce more melanin. Your skin may be naturally light or dark depending on how much melanin your skin produces. Changes in melanin production can be caused by changing hormone levels and medications.

Although melanin pigment is brown, its appearance changes hue the deeper it rests in the skin. This is due to an optical phenomenon called the Tyndall effect. Deep patches of melanin may look green, grey, even blue.

Changes in skin color can also accompany a variety of disorders, diseases and conditions, including inflammation, malignancy (cancer), organ failure, allergies, and infections. Changes in skin color can occur suddenly or gradually. The color can be blotchy and affect only a small area of the skin, such as a rash on your chest, or you may have a uniform change over the entire body, such as redness or jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes).

Skin color changes can be caused by a serious, potentially life-threatening condition, such as an allergic reaction, infection, or cancer. A rash of tiny purple spots on the skin can be due to meningitis or allergic purpura, both of which can be life threatening. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have these symptoms or other serious symptoms, such as a change in consciousness, or hives or a rash accompanied by wheezing, shortness of breath, or swelling of the face, mouth or throat.


What other symptoms might occur with skin color changes?

In addition to skin color changes, you may experience other skin symptoms, such as itching, a change in texture, dryness, temperature changes, blisters, or pain. Other symptoms can affect the digestive tract, respiratory system, nervous system, cardiovascular system, endocrine system, or immune system.

For example, some serious cardiovascular conditions, such as acute congestive h... Read more about skin color changessymptoms


What causes skin color changes?

Your skin may be naturally light or dark depending on how much melanin your skin produces. Changes in melanin production can be due to a variety of conditions and some medications. Skin darkening can be due to changing hormone levels or medications, but it can also occur from exposure to ionizing radiation (such as the sun) or heavy metals. Radiation therapy can also cause an increase in skin p... Read more about skin color changescauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 30, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Skin, Hair and Nails

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