Warning signs can appear on your skin and nails, which is why your dermatologist may be the first doctor to notice that you have heart disease. If you know what to look for, you can also find warning signs of heart disease on your skin and nails. The following pictures show you what to look for.
Swelling in your feet and lower legs
What it may be telling you: Your heart isn’t working properly.
Many diseases of the heart cause fluid to build up in your feet and lower legs. As the fluid builds up, you may see swelling, which can extend as far as the upper legs and groin.
Medical name: Edema (medical term for swelling)
Blue or purple color on your skin
What it may be telling you: You have a blockage in a blood vessel.
When you’re extremely cold, your skin can turn blue (or purple). If an area of your skin is blue (or purple) when you’re warm, that’s can be a sign your blood isn’t getting enough oxygen. The patient in this photo has a condition known as blue toe syndrome, which happens when one or more blood vessels are blocked.
Without treatment, the lack of oxygen can cause the skin and underlying tissue to eventually die.
Medical name: Cyanosis (refers to the bluish color on the skin)
Blue or purple net-like pattern on your skin
What it may be telling you: You have a blocked artery.
Some people see this pattern on their skin when they feel chilly. When their skin warms up, this pattern disappears. It’s also possible to see this pattern when taking certain medications. If one of these is causing the netlike pattern, it’s usually nothing to worry about.
This netlike pattern can also be a sign of a disease called cholesterol embolization syndrome, which occurs when small arteries become blocked. The blockage can lead to damaged tissues and organs, so it’s important to see a doctor to find out whether you have an undiagnosed disease.
Medical name: Livedo reticularis (medical term for the net-like pattern)
Yellowish-orange, waxy growths on your skin
What it may be telling you: You have unhealthy cholesterol levels.
If you see yellowish-orange growths on your skin, you may have deposits of cholesterol under your skin. These painless deposits can appear in many areas, including the corners of your eyes, lines on your palms, or the backs of your lower legs.
If you notice these growths on any area of your skin, see your doctor. You may need cholesterol testing or another medical test. Unhealthy cholesterol levels require treatment, which can prevent life-threatening heart disease. Getting your cholesterol levels under control may also help clear the growths on your skin. If the growths don’t clear, a board-certified dermatologist can treat them.
Medical name: Xanthelasma (cholesterol deposits on the eyelids), Xanthoma (cholesterol deposit found elsewhere on the skin)