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What Is Pallor a Sign Of?

Pallor is a key indicator of anemia. Pallor or paleness may be caused due to the decreased blood supply to the skin. Paleness is related to blood flow in the skin rather than the deposition of melanin in the skin. Pallor can also be a sign of:

  • Iron-deficiency anemia
  • Albinism (a rare group of genetic disorders that cause the skin, hair, or eyes to have little or no color)
  • Aplastic anemia (a condition in which the body stops producing enough new blood cells)
  • Anorexia (an eating disorder)
  • Arterial occlusion (a circulatory condition in which blocked or narrowed blood vessels reduce blood flow to the limbs)
  • Autoimmune hemolytic anemia (a rare disorder in which the person’s immune system attacks their red blood cells)
  • Bleeding
  • Chemical poisoning
  • Chronic diseases including infection and cancer
  • Diamond–Blackfan syndrome (a condition that primarily affects the bone marrow)
  • Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) (a condition affecting the blood’s ability to clot and stop bleeding)
  • Fainting
  • Frostbite
  • Fanconi anemia (a rare inherited disorder that mainly affects the bone marrow)
  • Fear or panic reaction
  • Folic acid deficiency
  • Heart disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Lack of sun exposure
  • Low environmental temperature
  • Low blood sugar
  • Kidney failure
  • Malnutrition
  • Medication side effects
  • Motion sickness
  • Problems with the circulatory system
  • Respiratory failure
  • Severe trauma
  • Shock
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Tuberculosis
  • Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP) (a blood disorder that results in blood clots forming in small blood vessels throughout the body)
  • Transient erythroblastopenia of childhood (TEC) (slowly developing anemia that occurs in early childhood)
  • Tuberculosis
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency

What is pallor?

Pallor, derived from the Latin pallere, meaning “to be pale,” is a medical sign related to several health conditions. Paleness of the skin indicates an atypical lightening of the skin or mucous membranes. Pale skin may occur all over the body or be localized to one area. Pallor is most easily seen on the face, inner lining of the eyelids (palpebral conjunctiva), inner lining of the mouth (oral mucosa), and nails. Pallor seen in these areas may indicate a serious condition:

  • Inner surface or lining of the eyelids
  • Inside of the mouth
  • The surface of the tongue
  • Lips
  • Palms

Pallor and albinism shouldn’t be confused, as the latter have a loss of skin pigmentation (melanin).

How does the physician diagnose pallor?

The physician will perform a physical examination of the patient and ask about any symptoms. They may order the following tests, which include:

  • CBC (complete blood count): This test helps measure blood cell counts and hemoglobin to identify anemia or infection.
  • Blood differential test: This test measures the percentage of each type of white blood cells in your body.
  • Thyroid function tests: A low functioning of the thyroid can cause anemia.
  • Colonoscopy: This is done to check for bleeding in the large intestine.
  • Kidney function tests: Kidney failure causes anemia. Hence, kidney function tests are essential to check the overall functioning of the kidney.
  • Extremity arteriography: It is used to see arteries in the hands, arms, feet, or legs.

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