Blanching of Skin

INTRODUCING BLANCHING OF SKIN

The word “blanc” means “white” in French. When the appearance of the skin becomes pale or shite, then blanching of skin is said to occur. Blanching of skin occurs when blood flow is temporarily obstructed. If you make some gentle pressure on a particular area of your skin, it will assume a lighter appearance, and then returns to its natural color shortly after. The bad news however is, some blanching of skin are permanent. These may be due to certain underlying medical conditions.

Blanching of skin
Photo Credit: ResearchGate

WHAT CAUSES BLANCHING OF SKIN?

Many factors contribute to the blanching of skin. It may be due to a medical emergency, or even a slight inconvenience.

Shock is one of the factors that causes blanching of skin. Shock occurs when the body is deprived of oxygen or blood. The conditions listed below contributes to shock:

  • Hemorrhage
  • Severe trauma
  • Reaction to allergies
  • Infection
  • Dehydration (clinical)
  • Third-degree burns

Shock must be treated with maximum seriousness as it is a medical emergency. You must know the symptoms alongside blanching of skin. Symptoms of shock include:

  • A distorted form of breathing, for instance, breathing too fast or too slow.
  • Skin that is cool and clammy
  • Poor urine output
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fainting or loss of consciousness
  • Mental confusion

Call the emergency number of your country (or 911 if you are in the USA) if you think that you have a shock, or you suspect that your loved one does.

Blanching of skin may also be caused by a number of skin conditions, including:

  • Burning of the skin – results in the loss of pigment
  • Irritation of the skin or dermatitis – parts of the skin assume a red or pale appearance
  • Vitiligo – smooth and white patches on some parts of the skin
  • Frostbite – tissues of the skin freeze, resulting in poor blood flow
  • Pressure sores – blanching of skin indicates an altered flow of blood
  • Tinea versicolor – a type of skin infection (fungal)

Blanching of skin is also linked to some medical conditions such as Raynaud’s disease. Raynaud’s disease is characterized by spasmodic constriction of arteries and arterioles which results in numbness, pain, cold, and blanching of skin.

A report by the National Institutes of Health says that up to 5% of Americans are affected by Raynaud’s disease. The toes and fingers are the most affected parts of the body. It also affects the earlobes, lips, and nostrils in some cases. 

Blanching of skin may also be caused by anemia (deficiency of red blood cells).

HOW DO I KNOW THAT I HAVE BLANCHING OF SKIN?

When you have blanching of skin, your skin will assume a white or pale appearance. If blood flow is impeded, then the skin may feel cool when touched.

WHEN SHOULD I SEE MY DOCTOR?

Please see your doctor if you experience the following symptoms along with blanching of skin:

  • Difficulty in breathing or catching your breath
  • Burns in the skin – usually deep, or covering a wide area
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Very weak pulse
  • Severe nausea and vomiting – especially when there is blood in the vomitus
  • Your skin is pale and clammy

DIAGNOSING BLANCHING OF SKIN

Blanching of skin is diagnosed via a physical examination. Your skin will be examined, especially the skin around the blanched region. The doctor will also ask for your medical history to determine whether you have any underlying condition that may have contributed to the blanching of skin. 

A blood test may also be used to diagnose blanching of skin caused by shock, Raynaud’s disease, or anemia.

TREATMENT FOR BLANCHING OF SKIN

Treatment is dependent on the cause. If it is caused by shock or anemia for instance, it will be corrected by administration of oxygen, intravenous fluids, and blood products.

Home care

Your skin is the largest organ in your body. It is also directly exposed to the external environment. You must take good care of it, wash your skin regularly using antibacterial soap. Moisturize your skin daily to prevent damage. If you stay in a cold region, then keep your skin warm by wearing warm socks or mittens. Do not expose yourself to the cold for too long.  If you or your loved one is bedridden, make sure that you or they are turned over frequently. This will minimize pressure and also prevent the development of bedsores.

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