Skin Problems Associated With a Sluggish Thyroid

The skin is the body’s largest organ, and as such, it is an indicator of the general health status of the body. Skin problems and the thyroid function can be interrelated because hormones, including thyroid hormones, are instrumental in regulating the health and appearance of skin. When the thyroid gland becomes underactive or overactive, a variety of skin problems may result.

For example, dry skin is a very common symptom of hypothyroidism because grease glands depend on thyroid hormones to secrete sebum (grease) that oils the skin and keeps it moist and supple. When dryness becomes extreme in hypothyroidism, the skin on the palms and soles of the feet may begin to thicken. This is known as keratoderma.

Another skin problem associated with low thyroid function is yellowing of the skin due to changes in the body's ability to metabolize Vitamin A. Skin may also become swollen from edema, pale or waxy and wounds may heal slowly. Additional skin changes in those who suffer from hypothyroidism can include dry scalp, wrinkles, bruising, eczema and other rashes.

People with a sluggish thyroid often have other conditions that are characterized by problems with the skin.

These include:

  • Alopecia areata, in which hair loss occurs in patches;
  • pemphigus and pemphigoid, autoimmune disorders that can cause blistering of the skin;
  • lupus erythematosus, which causes inflammation of various body parts including skin;
  • vitiligo, characterized by the development of white patches on the skin;
  • and scleroderma, in which debilitating scar tissue can cause problems like ulcerations of the fingers that result in loss of function.

Some of these skin problems seem severe but the good news is that many are rare for most people experiencing hypothyroidism. By far the most common skin problem in those with low thyroid function is dry skin, which can be managed with special natural cleansers and moisturizers.

Skin problems related to the thyroid performance are not limited to those with an underactive thyroid gland.

An overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can also lead to a variety of skin troubles, some of which are more or less the opposite of the skin problems associated with low thyroid function.

People with an overactive thyroid gland tend to have warm, oily skin and increased pigmentation. Hair may be fine, thin and oily as well. Sometimes, the skin on the shins thickens and forms plaques or nodules, and in rare cases, fingers and toes can become clubbed. Other skin changes include rapidly growing nails, and reddening of the palms. The complexion may become flushed, and in rare cases, hives can develop on the skin of people with overactive thyroid function.


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