Paleness of the skin refers to an abnormal lightening of the skin or mucous membranes. Pale skin may be generalized (occurring all over the body) or localized to one area. It is often accompanied by paleness or pallor in the linings of the eyes, inside of the mouth, and on the surface of the tongue. True paleness of the skin is related to the thickness and density of blood vessels beneath the skin and not to the amount of melanin (skin pigment) that is present. However, some people may confuse loss of skin pigmentation (as with albinism) with paleness. In dark-skinned people, paleness may only be apparent when examining the mucous membranes. Pale skin generally results from a decrease in blood flow, as with fainting or shock. It may also result from a reduction in the number of red blood cells (anemia).
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.
Causes of Pale Skin
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Cold Agglutinin Disease
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Congenital Heart Defects
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Heat stroke (heatstroke or sun stroke) is a form of hyperthermia. Heat stroke is a true medical emergency that can be fatal if...
Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome
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Low Blood Pressure (Hypotension)
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Raynaud's phenomenon is characterized by a pale-blue-red sequence of color changes of the digits, most commonly after exposure to...
Sepsis (blood poisoning) is a potentially deadly infection with signs and symptoms that include elevated heart rate, low or high...
Medical shock is a life-threatening medical condition. There are several types of medical shock, including: septic shock,...
Sickle Cell Disease (Sickle Cell Anemia)
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Vitiligo is a condition in which the skin turns white due to the loss of pigment from the melanocytes, cells that produce the...
Other Causes of Pale Skin
- Aplastic Anemia
- Arterial Occlusion
- Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia
- Chemical Poisoning
- Diamond-Blackfan Syndrome
- Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation (DIC)
- Fair Complexion
- Fanconi Anemia
- Fear or Panic Reaction
- Folic Acid Deficiency
- Lack of Sun Exposure
- Low Environmental Temperature
- Medication Side Effects
- Respiratory Failure
- Severe Trauma
- Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (TTP)
- Transient Erythroblastopenia of Childhood (TEC)
- Vitamin B12 Deficiency