Skin tone is mainly determined by genetics. So, some people can have a naturally fair and pale skin, and this is quite normal. Even individuals who avoid sun exposure can have paler skin than others. But sometimes, people who do not have pale skin earlier can develop it suddenly or gradually over a period of time.
Unusually pale skin tone can indicate an underlying health condition, especially if it is accompanied by other signs and symptoms like, fatigue, weakness, and generalized pallor or paleness such as, paleness of the lips, palms, inside of the mouth, tongue, and the mucous membranes of other parts of the body.
If paleness of the skin is not accompanied by such symptoms, then it is most probably caused by some minor factors like low-environmental temperature.
Paleness of the skin can be caused by several factors, some of which can be minor and harmless, while others can be quite serious. They are:
Anemia is one of the most important reason behind this condition which is caused by the reduction in the number of red blood cells in the body. With decreased red blood cell count, it is quite normal for the skin to lose its glow and radiance, and appear pale.
Along with the skin, anemia can cause paleness of the mucous membrane and excessive fatigue, tiredness, and poor concentration. Anemia can be of several different types, out of which, iron deficiency anemia and vitamin deficiency anemia are more common. Vitamin deficiency anemia can be caused either due to the deficiency of vitamin B12 or folic acid.
Cold and Frost Bite
Cold or low-environmental temperature as well as frost bites are some of the common factors that can cause the skin to become pale temporarily. The main reason behind such paleness is that low temperature causes the small blood vessels of the skin to constrict. As a result, the skin, especially the skin of the extremities of the body can look slightly paler.
Lack of proper nutrition is one of the important causes of unhealthy skin and paleness. The health of the skin depends on proper nutrition, and so, lack of nutrition due to eating disorders can manifest in unusual paleness of the skin.
Eating disorders and the resulting nutritional deficiency can produce symptoms like weight loss, dark circles under eyes, irritability, mood swings, and hair loss.
Hypoglycemia can cause sudden paleness of the skin. Hypoglycemia or a sudden drop in the level of blood sugar can be more commonly found in diabetics who are on insulin medications.
While using insulin, if such individuals skip a meal, then their blood sugar level can decrease all of a sudden. Even insulin overdose can cause the blood sugar to become too low, which can manifest in the paleness of the skin, blurred vision, nervousness, cold and clammy skin, anxiety, and confusion.
Other Possible Causes
There are several other factors or conditions, which can be associated with both sudden and gradual paleness of the skin and the mucous membrane.
Some such possible causes are hypothermia, fainting, shock, stress, fever, upset stomach, dehydration, heat stroke, heart failure, blood loss, side effects of certain medications (warfarin, corticosteroids, aspirin), thalassemia, leukemia, panic attack, Raynaud's syndrome, tuberculosis, heart disease, hypothyroidism, hypopituitarism, and sleep deprivation.
Pale skin is usually not considered as clinically significant, unless it is accompanied by some serious symptoms and generalized paleness such as pale lips, tongue, mouth, and mucous membranes of the body. On observing such generalized paleness, one should immediately consult a physician to find out the underlying causes of this condition.
Disclaimer: This is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.