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.
Pictures, Images, Illustrations & Quizzes
Leukemia Quiz: Test Your Medical IQ
What do you know about leukemia? Did you know there are different types? What are the symptoms? Take the Leukemia Quiz and test...
Picture of Pernicious Anemia
Pernicious anemia is a disease where large, immature, nucleated cells (megaloblasts, which are forerunners of red blood cells)...
Picture of Vitiligo (Neck)
The condition tends to progress and may even become universal. A variety of treatment modalities are commonly employed, with...
Causes of Pale Skin
Alpha thalassemia is a disorder in which the alpha globin protein is underproduced. There are two pairs of genes that carry the...
Anemia is the condition of having less than the normal number of red blood cells or less than the normal quantity of hemoglobin...
Beta Thalassemia is the most familiar type of thalassemia. Thalassemia is not just one disease but rather a complex series of...
Congenital Heart Defects
Congenital heart defects are heart problems that are present at birth. Genetics may play a role in some heart defects. Symptoms...
Cystic fibrosis is a disease of the mucus and sweat glands. Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disease. The outcome of the disease...
Frostbite (Frostnip and Other Cold Weather-Related Injuries)
There are two categories to cold weather-related injuries. 1) no freezing of body tissue (trench foot and chilblains), and 2)...
G6PD deficiency (Glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase) leads to a condition called hemolytic anemia. Causes of G6PD deficiency is an...
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
Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) is a diseases in which blood clots within the capillaries. Causes associated with HUS...
Iron is a mineral our bodies need. Iron deficiency is a condition resulting from not enough iron in the body. It is the most...
Leukemia is a type of cancer of the blood cells in which the growth and development of the blood cells are abnormal. Strictly...
Low Blood Pressure (Hypotension) Causes, Symptoms, Signs, Readings, and Treatments
Low blood pressure, also referred to as hypotension, is blood pressure that is so low that it causes symptoms or signs due to the...
Migraine headache is a type of headache associated with a sensitivity to light, smells, or sounds, eye pain, severe pounding on...
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)
Sickle cell anemia (sickle cell disease), a blood disease which shortens life expectancy, is cause by an inherited abnormal...
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