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Skin problems during obesity

Obesity is a fairly common problem among women. Overweight can be the cause of some diseases and trigger certain skin problems during obesity. The metabolism of the skin changes in obesity, creating prerequisites for the development of skin diseases.

Main skin problems during obesity

Stretch Marks
Stretch marks (so called “striae distensae”) during obesity are the result of extra weight and stretched skin (highly tensioned skin) – they can be pink, reddish, brown or purplish. In most cases stretch marks have red color at the beginning and late they turn to more dark colors (brown or violet). Most common places of stretch marks during obesity are breasts, buttocks, abdomen, and thighs. At final stages skin stretch marks usually turn to white depressed plaques.

Acanthosis Nigricans
It is a very specific skin pathology often related to obesity that causes brown or velvety dark or black marks (usually symmetric) which usually appear in the groin, armpits, neck, elbows and/or knees. Most experts associate acanthosis nigricans with elevated insulin levels and insulin resistance.

Infection (inflammation) of hair follicles called “folliculitis” – sometimes called “hot tub folliculitis” or “barber’s itch”. During obesity hair follicles can be damaged because of heavy additional weight which is adding additional pressure on the hair follicles and damaged hair follicles allow infection to occur and develop inflammation.

Skin problems during obesity

Skin Tags
Skin tags are tiny, benign raised bobbles of skin (skin growth) that stick out and may be connected to the skin with a narrow stock. Many obese women have skin tags because of extra weight which causes friction between the affected areas of skin. Skin tags during obesity could appear on the neck, armpit area and groin.

Skin problems during obesity – Cellulitis
Obese women are at risk for cellulitis because of skin infections and cleaning difficulties in many fatty skin folds. Skin cellulitis can cause pain and tenderness in the affected area of the skin, chills, shaking, muscle aches and sweating. Esthetic component of cellulitis cannot be underestimated.

Varicose Veins
Main cause of varicose veins during obesity is explained by increased blood flow at skin level – obesity can lead to a weakening of the valves in the veins, it is related to the development of varicose veins. Damaged blood vessels appear as swollen, enlarged veins that are raised above the skin’s surface. Common places of varicose veins during obesity are inside of the legs and backs of the calves.

Skin problems during obesity – Stasis Dermatitis
Poor blood circulation could trigger skin inflammation called “stasis dermatitis”. Main cause of statis dermatitis during obesity is explained by difficulty for the veins to carry fluid to the heart.

Sometimes during obesity women could have increased levels of androgens (male hormones) which called “hyperandrogenism” – increased production of male hormones by the excess fat.
Symptoms of hyperandrogenism include some skin disturbances such as acne and increased hair grow on the face.

Skin problems during obesity – Adiposis dolorosa
Fat redistribution during postmenopausal period could cause so called “adiposis dolorosa – it is pretty rare skin condition with multiple, painful, subcutaneous lipomas.

As it was mentioned earlier, fat skin folds are perfect place for infections – warm, wet, oily environment. Erythrasma is a bacterial infection of the skin that is caused by the bacteria Corynebacterium minutissimum and appears between skin folds.

Tinea Cruris
Tinea cruris is a fungal infection that is also known as “jock itch” – appears usually in fat skin folds (in warm, moist areas of the skin). Excessive sweating during obesity is considered as triggering factor for fungus grows on the skin.

Acrochordons are soft brown papules or growths seen commonly on the neck and in the armpits and groin. Dermatologists noted frequent appearance of acrochordins with acanthosis nigricans

Keratosis pilaris
Very specific spiny papules or growths on the external surface of the arms sometimes called “goose bumps”. Some experts associate it with dry prone skin.

Skin problems during obesity – aggravated by obesity

1.    Lymphedema (impedance of lymphatic flow);
2.    Psoriasis (red lesions with silver scale);
3.    Chronic venous insufficiency;
4.    Plantar hyperkeratosis or calluses (most commonly as a horseshoe callous);
5.    Skin infections (fungal and/or bacterial).
6.    Hidradenitis suppurativa (abscesses and scarring tracts).

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