Read below about pale skin, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your pale skin from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Pale Skin Symptoms

You've been saving and planning for a year and the time has finally come. You're headed out on a two-week cruise in the morning. There's just one problem. Your pale skin is putting a major damper on your beach plans.

If your skin has always been pale, you can blame genetics. But if your skin normally has a darker or warmer glow to it, pale skin can signal a variety of health problems. Possible causes range from simple nutrient deficiencies to dangerous changes in blood flow.

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms along with your pale skin you should seek immediate medical attention:

Skin includes three pigments: melanin, carotene, and hemoglobin. Your unique combination of the three determine your natural skin tone. Melanin is the main pigment that determines your unique shade. If you spend your summers outside and in the open, an increase in pigment production from melanocytes, or cells that produce melanin, are the scientific cause behind your tan.

Changes in our skin tone can signal a variety of conditions. If you see a major change in all or a small part of your skin, a trip to the dermatologist can rule out the scary causes, like skin cancer. But in most situations, there is a treatable cause behind the change.

Pale Skin Causes Overview

Deficiencies:

  • Iron: Iron deficiency is the most common deficiency in the United States. Symptoms include fatigue, difficulty maintaining body temperature, and paleness due to anemia. Infants, toddlers, and pregnant women are at a higher risk of developing an iron deficiency.
  • G6PD: Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency is a genetic disorder that affects red blood cells. As the blood cells prematurely break down, paleness, yellowed eyes, and dark urine are some experienced symptoms.
  • Vitamin B-12: B-12 deficiencies are common in the elderly but can develop at any age. Our bodies need B-12 to produce red blood cells and DNA. Weakness, a pins and needles sensation in the hands or feet, and pale or yellowed skin are all symptoms.

Infections:

  • Sepsis: This potentially deadly infection is usually caused by bacteria. As the body's blood becomes more infected, fatigue, weakness, and pale skin can quickly develop.
  • Influenza: Commonly known as the flu, this infection affects the respiratory system. As less oxygen flows through the body, skin can take on a paler appearance.

Conditions and diseases:

  • Cystic fibrosis: CF is typically diagnosed before or quickly after birth in infants, but some cases are difficult to diagnose. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, a swollen abdomen, and pale skin linked to a lower than average blood oxygen level.
  • Leukemia: A variety of cancers are linked to paler skin as the body weakens. But leukemia directly affects blood cells, making pale skin one of the first symptoms of the disease.
  • Vitiligo: If your pale skin is patchy compared to uniform, vitiligo could be to blame. There are no proven treatments of the condition, but it is harmless.
  • Anemia: Anemia causes fatigue, headaches, and pale skin.

Lifestyle choices:

  • Poor diet: Eating junk food and skipping healthier options can lead to paler skin over time. Skin may also lose elasticity and appear dry and flakey.
  • Heat exhaustion: Spending the day out in the hot sun without getting enough rest or water can take its toll on the body. The skin might take on a bright red shade or appear paler.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Pale Skin

Updated on Aug. 29, 2018

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced pale skin. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Iron Deficiency Anemia

    Anemia is a condition in which the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells, which deliver oxygen. Iron deficiency anemia occurs when the body does not have enough iron. Iron helps make red blood cells.

    Resolves with treatment

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, headache, shortness of breath, dizziness, heavy menstrual flow
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Low Blood Cell Counts Due to a Chronic Disease

    Anemia is a condition in which the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells, which are cells that provide oxygen to body tissues. Anemia of chronic disease is anemia that is found in people who already have certain long-term (chronic) medical conditions.

    Long-term condition with a variable course, highly dependent on the underlying cause.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, shortness of breath on exertion, decreased exercise tolerance, dizziness when standing up, pale skin all over
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

    Pale Skin Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having pale skin.

    Pale Skin Quiz
  3. 3.Folate (Vitamin) Deficiency

    Folic acid (folate) is a vitamin that is needed to make new cells in the body, including red blood cells which carry oxygen through the blood and into various tissues throughout the body. Folate deficiency refers to a condition when there is not enough folic acid in the body, and can lead to symptoms such as tiredness, low energy, faintness, and difficulty breathing.

    People recover with no long-term effects within weeks.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, irritability, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea
    Symptoms that never occur with folate (vitamin) deficiency:
    abdominal swelling
    Urgency:
    Phone call or in-person visit
  4. 4.Hypothyroidism

    Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid, a butterfly-shaped organ inside the neck, no longer produces adequate levels of hormones. Thyroid hormones are essential for many bodily functions including breathing, heart rate, and metabolism.

    Most cases of hypothyroidism require lifelong hormone replacement therapy.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, weight gain, muscle aches
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  5. 5.Vitiligo

    Vitiligo is a condition where white patches develop on the skin, which is due to a loss of color (pigment) from affected areas. There are usually no other symptoms apart from the strange appearance.

    Vitiligo is a chronic but not life-threatening condition.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    loss of skin color around the lips, skin changes resembling vitiligo, loss of skin color on the arm or hand, loss of skin color on the neck
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment

Pale Skin Treatments and Relief

There are a few symptoms you should look out for if your skin has recently changed.

Experiencing any of these listed symptoms warrants a trip to your doctor sooner than later.

If you want to bring back your glow, consider these treatments.

  • Supplements: If your pale skin is caused by a deficiency, your doctor may prescribe you take a supplement of either iron, B-12, or folate.
  • Balanced diet: Eating a healthier diet can reverse skin paleness if related to deficiencies. Consume foods like peanut butter, avocados, and sweet potatoes.
  • Medication: If your paleness is related to an underlying condition or disease that can be treated with medication, proper dosages should return your skin to its normal shade.
  • Surgery: Blockages in the body are a rare but possible cause of paleness. Surgical intervention is usually a requirement to treat this cause.

If your pale skin is causing you stress, ruling out a serious condition is the first step. Once you're in the clear, starting treatment will get your glow back. Eventually, you'll be confidently strutting down the beach with healthy skin.

FAQs About Pale Skin

Here are some frequently asked questions about pale skin.

What are the symptoms of anemia?

The signs and symptoms of a low red blood cell count, or anemia, depends on how severe the anemia is and how fast it has occured. Symptoms include fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, dizziness or lightheadedness, headache, and pale skin. Anemia can also cause cold hands and feet, irregular heartbeats, and chest pain depending on the patient and his/her previous medical condition.

Why am I so pale and tired?

You may have anemia. Anemia is a low red blood cell count. It can occur because you are not producing enough red blood cells due to some sort of deficiency (iron or certain vitamins) or because you are losing blood by bleeding either externally (outside of your body) or internally (within your body). Other potential causes include a viral illness, malignancy and hypothyroidism.

What causes pale skin and dark circles?

Pale skin is most commonly caused by anemia or a low red blood cell count. The constriction of blood vessels in the face and limbs to heighten blood temperature during a fever causes a pale "sickly" appearance as well. Dark circles under the eyes are caused by fatigue most commonly, but can be caused by venous congestion from allergies or a cold.

Why are my palms pale?

Palms are usually given color by blood flow. If your palms are pale, it may be because of a decrease in the amount of blood that usually supplies them. Anemia is a common reason for pale palms as well as the constriction of blood vessels of the palms in cold weather, or, a more severe version of the same phenomenon, called Raynaud's syndrome.

What is making my eyelids pale?

Pale eyelids are a common sign of anemia. Physicians may check this by pulling down the eyelid and checking the amount of time it takes the eyelid to return to a normal pink color. Anemia can be caused by multiple diseases, some more benign than others, but all requiring treatment. If you suspect that you have anemia, you should seek treatment.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Pale Skin

  • Q.Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
  • Q.Have you been experiencing dizziness?
  • Q.Have you ever been diagnosed with cancer?
  • Q.Have you ever been diagnosed with an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), like Crohn's or Ulcerative colitis?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our pale skin symptom checker to find out more.

Pale Skin Quiz

Pale Skin Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced pale skin have also experienced:

    • 8% Fatigue
    • 4% Nausea
    • 3% Abdominal Pain (Stomach Ache)
  • People who have experienced pale skin were most often matched with:

    • 37% Iron Deficiency Anemia
    • 37% Low Blood Cell Counts Due to a Chronic Disease
    • 25% Folate (Vitamin) Deficiency
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

A.I. Health Assistant

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having pale skin

Pale Skin Quiz