You may have noticed that sometimes your skin gets a bit more pale than usual.
If you have a darker skin tone, you may appear ashen, and for people with lighter skin tones, the face can look quite pale or even a bit yellow.
This sickly pale coloring, also called pallor, can be due to many reasons and causes, and many of them are temporary and treatable.
This article will explore what pallor is and its leading causes.
We will also look at possible treatments and other symptoms to watch out for, and then discuss when to seek medical attention.
What Is Pallor (Paleness)?
An unusual loss of color, or paleness, in the skin (e.g., the face) is known as pallor.
If you notice that your natural coloring or normal complexion is lighter than usual, you may be experiencing pallor.
In many cases, pallor lasts for just a short amount of time.
Pallor (paleness) occurs when the supply of blood is decreased to an area of skin, most commonly the face.
Pallor can look different depending on a person’s regular skin tone and can be more obvious in people with lighter skin colors.
Some common causes of pallor include:
It is a common blood condition caused by having a low red blood cell count.
A lower than normal red blood cell count leads to not enough oxygen being circulated across the body, leaving the affected person feeling tired, dizzy, and pale.
This condition occurs when a bluish-purple hue appears on the skin and can be most often noticed in the lips, eyes, earlobes, and nails.
Cyanosis occurs when less oxygen is bound to the hemoglobin of red blood cells.
Many times, pallor with cyanosis occurs due to an accompanying underlying condition and will also cause other symptoms such as fatigue, difficulty in breathing, pain or numbness in the fingers and toes, and coughing or wheezing.
Such cyanosis can be a medical emergency in some cases, so see a doctor right away if you notice a blue discoloration.
Shock, stress, and anxiety
You may notice that when you suddenly get shocked or frightened, your body goes pale, and you may even faint suddenly.
The emotional distress from a shocking event or series of events can cause the blood to suddenly drain from an area of your body or can lead to a drop in blood sugar.
This can also happen when your body is suddenly exposed to extreme cold, leading to pallor from decreased blood flow to the skin.
Each cause of pallor will have its own treatment.
A medical professional will advise you on the best possible route to take after a thorough examination and diagnosis.
If you are experiencing pallor (paleness) for a short amount of time, you can keep it under control by:
- Consuming a diet that is rich in vitamins B, C, and D, iron, protein, and fiber: If you are experiencing pallor due to a vitamin deficiency, a medical professional will be able to run some tests to identify this. Your healthcare provider will also prescribe the right supplements to counter pallor and other symptoms. It is also important to keep your body hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
- Getting plenty of rest: If you are experiencing pallor due to sudden shock or stress, take precautions to ease your body and mind after traumatic situations. Many people experience pallor when they hear sudden frightening news or if they witness a traumatic event. Consider speaking to a medical professional to learn techniques for managing panic attacks and stress and get appropriate medication if needed.
- Taking the proper medication: If you have a chronic ailment or long-term medical condition, it is imperative that you follow your doctor’s advice and take your required dose of medication. This applies even if you start feeling better or if symptoms subside. Do not suddenly stop or change your medication without consulting a healthcare professional.
- Encouraging healthy blood circulation: Avoid sitting or standing in sedentary positions for long periods of time. Lead a healthy lifestyle by exercising regularly, avoiding smoking and tobacco, and limiting the intake of alcohol. Keep your feet and hands warm in extremely cold weather, and keep them cool in very hot temperatures. Wear clothing that promotes blood circulation at all times.
It is important to remember that these treatments for pallor will not work for everyone and for all conditions of pallor.
Seek professional medical help for accurate treatments for each cause.
Other Possible Symptoms
Each cause of pallor comes with its own set of additional symptoms, as indicated individually above, including difficulty in breathing, shortness of breath, fever, fatigue, chest pains, and discoloration in the eyes and lips.
In darker-skinned individuals, the symptoms of pallor may not be obvious by looking at only the skin color.
Look for unusual, pale, or blue colors in the lips, eyes, palms, and other body areas.
A medical professional can accurately determine the cause of your pallor after conducting a thorough examination.
They may ask you a few questions regarding your eating habits, lifestyle, routine, medical history, and family medical history to get more insight into your condition.
Be completely honest with your healthcare professional so they can diagnose you efficiently and effectively.
If you notice any of the above-mentioned additional symptoms, note them and tell the medical professional when they first appeared and for how long they lasted.
Your healthcare professional may conduct a thorough physical examination by looking at your skin, eyes, and mouth and, in some cases, may order additional tests such as a colonoscopy, blood test, urine sample, thyroid function tests, or a complete blood count (CBC), to reach an accurate diagnosis of pallor.
When To Seek Medical Attention
If you experience pallor (paleness) for more than a few minutes, then seek help from a medical professional.
If other symptoms like those mentioned above accompany pallor, then visit your nearest emergency room or call 911 immediately.
If you are having trouble breathing, see someone faint, or experience other unexplained symptoms, then you will need a healthcare professional to take a look at you quickly.
How K Health Can Help
Did you know you can get affordable primary care with the K Health app?
If you have further questions about pallor or are experiencing symptoms for long periods of time, then reach out to our team of experts any time, from wherever you are. With K Health, you don’t need an appointment, and there’s no need to wait for a consultation. Our board-certified clinicians with training from top-tier institutions provide personalized care 24/7.
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Frequently Asked Questions
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
Anemia epidemiology, pathophysiology, and etiology in low- and middle-income countries. (2019).
Manual for the Health Care of Children in Humanitarian Emergencies. (2008.)