Pale Skin
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Reviewed By:

Kenji Taylor, MD, MSc

Kenji Taylor, MD, MSc (Family Medicine, Primary Care)

Dr. Taylor is a Japanese-African American physician who grew up and was educated in the United States but spent a considerable amount of time in Japan as a college student, working professional and now father of three. After graduating from Brown, he worked in finance first before attending medical school at Penn. He then completed a fellowship with the Centers for Disease Control before going on to specialize in Family and Community Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) where he was also a chief resident. After a faculty position at Stanford, he moved with his family to Japan where he continues to see families on a military base outside of Tokyo, teach Japanese residents and serve remotely as a medical director for Roots Community Health Center. He also enjoys editing and writing podcast summaries for Hippo Education.

Yoshinori Abe, MD

Yoshinori Abe, MD (Internal Medicine)

Dr. Abe graduated from The University of Tokyo School of Medicine in 2015. He completed his residency at the Tokyo Metropolitan Health and Longevity Medical Center. He co-founded Ubie, Inc. in May 2017, where he currently serves as CEO & product owner at Ubie. Since December 2019, he has been a member of the Special Committee for Activation of Research in Emergency AI of the Japanese Association for Acute Medicine. | | Dr. Abe has been elected in the 2020 Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia Healthcare & Science category.

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Content updated on Apr 4, 2024

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  • Face turned pale for a while then recovered

  • Face has no color

  • Face is pale with lips turned blue for a while

  • Facial pallor that lasted for a while

  • Face turned ashen for a short time

  • Face is pale all the time

  • Appears sickly

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About the Symptom

Pale skin (or skin pallor) is a lightening of the skin: a relative decrease in the color and warm tones of the skin. People of all skin types and shades may at times have pale skin. Skin going from normal to pale can be caused by a wide variety of things but is generally a sign of less blood flow to the skin. Skin may quickly turn pale, for example, if you are suddenly frightened and the blood flows out of the skin in your face or if you are very cold. It may also happen more slowly, for example, if you have less blood flowing in your body (anemia) due to low iron levels or blood loss.

When to see a doctor

Seek professional care if you experience any of the following symptoms

  • Repeated fever above 38 ℃

  • Fainting with loss of consciousness

  • Respiratory wheeze

  • Unexplained weight loss of 5% or more in 1 month

  • Seizure attack

  • Fever

  • Difficulty breathing / breathlessness

  • Peripheral cyanosis

Possible Causes

Generally, Pale skin can be related to:

  • Tracheal Stenosis

    Tracheal stenosis is an abnormal narrowing of the trachea, also known as the windpipe, that restricts normal breathing.

  • Breath Holding Spells

    A condition sometimes seen in young children. Spells most commonly occur around one year of age with a range of six months to four years. Up to 15 percent of cases may have an initial episode below the age of six months. The child may stop breathing for up to 1 minute, causing them to lose consciousness and tone. Although alarming to parents, this condition is common and can happen in healthy children, who will grow out of it as they age. Triggers for spells include frustration, pain, or fear.

  • Anemia

    Anemia is a disorder where the body's tissues don't receive enough oxygen due to a lack of healthy red blood cells. There are several types of anemia with various causes, the most common being iron-deficiency anemia, which results from insufficient iron. Iron is needed to produce hemoglobin, a substance in red blood cells that helps carry oxygen.

  • Pheochromocytoma
  • Cystic Fibrosis (CF)
  • Multiple Myeloma (MM)

Related serious diseases

Sometimes, Pale skin may be related to these serious diseases:

  • Intussusception

    A condition where a segment of the intestines "telescopes" into another. This can cause the intestine walls to die, so prompt medical attention is needed. It is associated with certain genetic conditions and growths, but often no clear cause is found.

  • Leukemia
  • Asphyxiation
  • Acute Encephalopathy

Doctor's Diagnostic Questions

Your doctor may ask these questions to check for this symptom:

  • Do you look paler than usual?

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Find Similar Symptoms

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References

  • Kalantri A, Karambelkar M, Joshi R, Kalantri S, Jajoo U. Accuracy and reliability of pallor for detecting anaemia: a hospital-based diagnostic accuracy study. PLoS One. 2010 Jan 1;5(1):e8545. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0008545. PMID: 20049324; PMCID: PMC2797134.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2797134/

  • Muhe L, Oljira B, Degefu H, Jaffar S, Weber MW. Evaluation of clinical pallor in the identification and treatment of children with moderate and severe anaemia. Trop Med Int Health. 2000 Nov;5(11):805-10. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-3156.2000.00637.x. Erratum in: Trop Med Int Health 2001 Apr;6(4):326. PMID: 11123829.

    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11123829/

Reviewed By:

Kenji Taylor, MD, MSc

Kenji Taylor, MD, MSc (Family Medicine, Primary Care)

Dr. Taylor is a Japanese-African American physician who grew up and was educated in the United States but spent a considerable amount of time in Japan as a college student, working professional and now father of three. After graduating from Brown, he worked in finance first before attending medical school at Penn. He then completed a fellowship with the Centers for Disease Control before going on to specialize in Family and Community Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) where he was also a chief resident. After a faculty position at Stanford, he moved with his family to Japan where he continues to see families on a military base outside of Tokyo, teach Japanese residents and serve remotely as a medical director for Roots Community Health Center. He also enjoys editing and writing podcast summaries for Hippo Education.

Yoshinori Abe, MD

Yoshinori Abe, MD (Internal Medicine)

Dr. Abe graduated from The University of Tokyo School of Medicine in 2015. He completed his residency at the Tokyo Metropolitan Health and Longevity Medical Center. He co-founded Ubie, Inc. in May 2017, where he currently serves as CEO & product owner at Ubie. Since December 2019, he has been a member of the Special Committee for Activation of Research in Emergency AI of the Japanese Association for Acute Medicine. | | Dr. Abe has been elected in the 2020 Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia Healthcare & Science category.

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