October 31, 2014
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Healthy Skin

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5 ways obesity can affect your skin

Being overweight imperils your health in many ways. Besides the elevated risks for heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer, excess weight can also affect the health and appearance of your skin.

Any of the following skin problems can be relieved or improved by losing excess weight:

  • A body that carries too much weight undergoes shifts in hormone levels. When this happens, darkened, velvety patches called acanthosis nigricans can form, especially in areas where skin folds and overlaps like the knees, elbows, groin, armpits, and neck. Patches may appear grey, brown, or black. Weight loss can improve the appearance of acanthosis nigricans. Treatment with over-the-counter (OTC) lotions and creams may help. Look for products containing alpha-hydroxy acids, salicylic acid, and urea.

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  • Folds and creases in the skin may also trap moisture, which can allow spots on your body to become breeding grounds for bacteria, yeast, and fungi. Rashes like intertrigo or jock itch can result, with redness and breaks in the skin that can ooze, become itchy, or make a person more prone to yeast infection. Areas of intertrigo should be kept dry and aired out by using absorbent powders and wearing cotton or fabric that is absorbent. Treat and cleanse these areas very gently to avoid further inflammation. Antifungal creams should be applied with hydrocortisone cream to reduce redness and irritation.

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  • When weight is rapidly gained or lost, stretch marks may arise on the skin's surface. Stretch marks start out pink then gradually become red, then purple. Over time they can become lighter and almost disappear. Itchiness may accompany new stretch marks, as well as a wrinkled or crepe-papery surface. Skin can be treated with tretinoin cream, or through resurfacing procedures like laser treatment or chemical peels.

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  • The strain of bearing excess weight may impact the veins in your legs and result in varicose veins and rupture of surface capillaries. Varicose veins, once visible, can be hard to remedy and can cause pain and swelling in the legs. Compression stockings provide support and prevent blood from pooling in the veins of the leg. Losing weight, staying active, and avoiding long periods of sitting can keep veins from worsening.

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  • The strain of weight can extend down into your feet, pressing skin against the insides of shoes and rubbing painful corns onto the toes. To prevent corns, reduce weight and wear well-fitted shoes. Talk to your doctor about the safest way to treat corns, which may include soaking the feet and rubbing corns using a pumice stone or applying an OTC salicylic acid or urea cream to the corns.

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