Pale skin – causes, treatment

Pale skin

The following article describes the causes, diagnosis and treatment for pale skin . It also explains which strategies can be used to achieve the best possible prevention.

what is pale skin

In medicine, pale skin refers to a physical complaint in which a patient complains of a significant change in skin color. In the case of pallor , this appears lighter and less lively than usual.

It should be noted that the term pallor in medicine is separated from the characteristic of a light skin type . Paleness is always a complaint that may even indicate possible underlying diseases. On the other hand, one speaks of a light skin type if this is also the regular skin color of the patient.

However, since pallor affects different people differently, there is no general definition. It is also hardly possible for a doctor to recognize pallor in a new patient himself. Instead, changes are recognized most strongly by the patient himself. The same applies to friends and acquaintances. Changes in skin color are most noticeable on the face and arms.


Pale skin can be traced back to a variety of causes. One of the most well-known causes is startle. In a shock situation, blood is shifted from the face to the internal organs. The body’s own mechanism is intended to increase the defense potential of those affected.

Pallor can also occur if there is heavy blood loss. This is the case, for example, after an accident or a bleeding stomach ulcer . In the short term, pallor occurs when blood pressure suddenly falls. On the other hand, people suffer from chronic pallor if they have hypotension (low blood pressure) or anemia (low blood count).

Other causes include smoking . The narrowing of blood vessels leads to a lack of blood flow in the face and hands. In addition, there are numerous diseases that result in pale skin. These can be infections, organ damage or tumors.

Diseases with this symptom

Diagnosis & History

If pale skin appears for no apparent reason, it is advisable to consult a general practitioner or dermatologist . At the beginning, the doctor asks in a detailed conversation when the pallor becomes noticeable. In addition, it collects important data on previous and existing diseases.

In addition, the doctor should be informed if medication or drugs are being taken. Complaints such as fatigue or loss of appetite should also be mentioned. As the process progresses, the doctor asks further questions relating to eating habits and leisure activities. This is accompanied by a physical exam, during which blood pressure is measured, heart function is checked with an EKG , and blood values ​​are checked.

If pale skin persists, additional tests are done. These include a stress ECG, an ultrasound examination and bone marrow diagnostics. If the pallor persists despite the diagnostics and associated therapy, this is referred to as a chronic disease.


Pale skin is not a disease per se, but can be part of the phenotype of a healthy person. However, having pale skin can cause health problems that a person with darker skin would not have. Sunburn is one of them, because lighter skin tones have less melanin – this is not only the skin pigment, but also its natural protection against UV radiation.

Every sunburn is unpleasant, but at the same time it also creates the basis for skin cancer . The risk does not depend on how many times you have been sunburned; theoretically, cell degeneration can happen with any sunburn. In the long term, the so-called melanoma can develop. Pale skin not only carries an increased risk of cancer as a result of sunburn, but can also be a sign of illness – but it is often overlooked as many people have pale skin if they are not outside all day.

A newly developed pallor can mean that not enough nutrients from food can be metabolized. Most of the time it’s about iron , so we’re talking about anemia . However, a change in skin tone to paleness can also indicate thyroid problems . We are then talking about mixed edema, since the skin not only becomes pale but also structurally different. However, skin changes are often not recognized as symptoms and therefore remain unnoticed.

When should you go to the doctor?

From a medical point of view, pale skin has nothing to do with type-related light skin. When doctors talk about pale skin, they mean it as a symptom. When a doctor sees a patient with pale skin for the first time, he often lacks the previous appearance for a binding assessment. An exception would be a skin that is described as chalky-white, as occurs in states of shock or in the case of high blood loss. Here relatives and friends can provide helpful information about pale skin. The family doctor is different: he already knows his patient and can assess the current skin tone.

In addition to shock and blood loss, hypothermia, drop in blood pressure, chronically low blood pressure and anemia also play important roles in pale skin. The pale skin of many smokers is also known. Other possible causes of pale skin are heart disease and, in rare cases, thyroid problems.

Anyone who has had pale skin all their life and feels good about it does not need to see a doctor. This is different with skin that has only recently become pale, especially if there are other symptoms such as a lack of appetite and fatigue. The family doctor is the ideal contact person for pale skin. If necessary, he will refer you to specialists such as internists or cardiologists for further clarification.

Treatment & Therapy

The diagnosed cause plays an important role in treatment. If a source of bleeding (e.g. stomach ulcer) can be found, it must be treated immediately. Conversely, if pale skin is associated with malnutrition, a diet plan will be drawn up and dietary supplements prescribed.

Treatment is more difficult if there is an underlying disease. In this case, pale skin can only be counteracted if the underlying disease is identified and treated. This is made more difficult when the disease is chronic. Examples include hypotension and anemia. Treating pallor is also difficult if it is caused by leukemia (cancer). Paleness is a natural consequence of chemotherapy and radiotherapy .

If, on the other hand, pale skin can be traced back to a long-term smoking habit, smoking must be stopped first and foremost. With medication, on the other hand, it is only possible to eliminate paleness in the short term. These are drugs that have a blood pressure-increasing effect.

Appropriate means should only be used according to the specifications of the dermatologist or general practitioner. If you want to counteract the pallor in the long term, the underlying cause must first be treated.

Outlook & Forecast

Pale skin can be quite normal for one person, while for another it is a symptom of a medical condition. If pale skin occurs in healthy people, it has no disease value and therefore no prognosis. Nevertheless, sun protection is very important in these cases, as otherwise sunburn can occur and skin cancer may develop from this in old age. Darker skin types, on the other hand, are better protected due to their increased melanin content.

However, if pale skin appears as a new phenomenon, it can definitely have a pathological value. Pale skin is often only an initial symptom and the affected patient will notice other signs that something is wrong in the near future. However, it may take a while for people to figure out on their own that pale skin and other new symptoms are related.

Once treatment begins – for example for iron deficiency or anemia – it often takes quite a while for the pale skin to normalize again. In these cases, it doesn’t help much to lie in the sun more often. This naturally tans the skin over time, but in its pale state it is also at risk of sunburn. It is better to pay attention to good sun protection and a healthy diet during this time, which helps to permanently eliminate the cause of the pale skin.


Pale skin can be prevented with various strategies. First of all, it is important to pay attention to a balanced diet. In addition, undisturbed sleep plays an important role.

In addition, the consumption of tobacco, alcohol and drugs should be largely avoided. It is also important to exercise regularly. It is usually enough to go jogging or swimming. The exercise and the oxygen-rich air have a positive effect.

It is also advisable to have your blood values ​​checked at regular intervals. Individual cancer screening should also be considered.

You can do that yourself

If the symptom of pale skin is not caused by a serious illness, numerous home remedies can help. Experience has shown that pale skin is due to an iron deficiency . This can be remedied by those affected consuming enough iron . Commercially available iron supplements are rarely necessary, as a large number of foods contain iron. Millet , soya and oats are suitable for consumption . Rye , chickpeas and white beans also contain a significant amount of iron.

Medicinal plants can also be used for pale skin. Herbs such as nettles or dandelion can be used in their pure form or as a tea or salad. Natural sources of iron also include juices made from raspberries or currants . Cherry, grape and pomegranate juice are equally recommended for pale skin .

Pale skin is also often caused by low blood pressure. However, medication is rarely required. Simple methods such as exercise, relaxation and adequate fluid intake help to stabilize blood pressure and reduce paleness. Hydrotherapy treatments according to Sebastian Kneipp are also worth mentioning . First and foremost, the cold arm bath should be mentioned. This application stimulates blood pressure and refreshes. However, those affected should only use this application after precise instructions.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.