The face can reveal a lot about our health

Puffy eyes and dark shadows may be telltale signs of tiredness but can our faces reveal more about our health, writes Abi Jackson.


A permanent flushed rash across the bridge of the nose and cheeks may be a sign of lupus, a lifelong autoimmune condition which, among other things, causes joint and muscle pain and extreme fatigue. But not everybody gets the so-called ’butterfly’ rash.

Other skin changes include a widespread measles-like rash, patches of discoid lupus (inflamed sores) or small areas of bleeding into the skin. Thinning of the hair can also be seen at times of a flare of the disease.

What should I do?

Lupus often goes undiagnosed due to lack of awareness and because symptoms can be misleading. If you’re concerned, speak to your GP and explain all the things you’re experiencing — blood tests and a referral to a specialist can determine whether you have the condition. There’s no cure, but treatments and advice on managing lupus can make a real difference to quality of life and help prevent serious complications.


One of the most common causes of excess hair on women not just on the face, but the whole body is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which affects one in five women. Some of the other symptoms are acne, male-pattern hair loss, irregular period cycles and weight gain , or difficulty losing weight.

What should I do?

PCOS is linked to long-term health risks like heart disease and type 2 diabetes, so if a woman has two or more of these symptoms, experts recommend she talks to her GP. There’s no cure, but PCOS can be managed successfully.


“There are tons of different causes of dark patches,” explains consultant dermatologist Dr Adam Friedmann. “Sun exposure can give you freckles, or dark patches called melasma, and this can be made worse by birth control pills and pregnancy, then there are age and liver spots.”

These are common and nothing to worry about — unless they become malignant. “If a freckle starts to get bigger with irregular colours, and looks different from the others, even if it’s still flat, it could mean it’s becoming cancerous,” says Friedmann.

What should I do?

If you are concerned, speak to your GP, and any unusual changes in moles and freckles should always be checked. In most cases, dark patches are not a health concern, but if they’re causing distress or affecting your self-esteem, speaking to a dermatologist for advice could be helpful.


The beauty industry and lay population often refer to a flushed complexion as rosacea, but for many people, rosacea is a real skin disorder which can have a big impact.

“As dermatologists, we talk about acne rosacea,” says Friedmann. Though not every case is the same, symptoms include spots, thickening of the skin, sore, dry eyes and a rash-like flushing/redness. “Over time, if left untreated, the redness can become permanent and disfiguring.”

What should I do?

If you’re suffering from acne rosacea, speak to your GP or see a dermatologist — treatments and advice can make a big difference. If permanent redness with no underlying cause is still causing distress, there may be things, like laser treatment or camouflage products, which could help.


If your eyes have started to protrude more than usual, and are bulging out of your eye sockets, it could be a sign of illness such as Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder and the most common form of overactive thyroid. Other symptoms of Graves include anxiety, weight loss, palpitations, hand tremor, frequent bowel movements and an enlarged thyroid gland.

Other things that may cause eyes to bulge include injuries, infection and tumours.

What should I do?

Get things checked with your doctor so, if necessary, you can be referred for appropriate tests and treatment.

If you’re experiencing other symptoms that may indicate thyroid imbalance, writing everything down in a diary might help build up a clearer picture.


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