Kidney disease leads to physical changes, including changes to your skin. In chronic kidney disease, your kidneys are unable to filter the blood like healthy kidneys, which causes waste and toxins to build up. This can cause skin irritation resulting in itchiness. This is very common in the cases of CKD and affects the overall quality of life of the patients adversely.
Due to the disease, kidneys are also unable to balance certain minerals like phosphorus. High phosphorus can cause dry and irritated skin. Kidney disease can also cause changes in sweat glands, resulting in dry skin. Other conditions common in CKD are Xerosis cutis, Nephrogenic systemic fibrosis, discoloration of the skin or hyperpigmentation, etc.
Xerosis cutis, skin dryness, is a common skin condition found among the patients of CKD. About 50-85% patients who are put on maintenance dialysis are reported to be affected by this condition. It is usually found over the forearms, legs, and thigh extensor surfaces.
Nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF) is a skin condition that is unique to cases of renal failure. According to a journal, “it is characterized by visible skin fibrosis consisting of hardened, thickened, tethered, hyperpigmented, and/or shiny changes. Fibrotic skin across joints leads to flexion contractures and immobility. Sclerotic changes are noted most frequently in the feet, ankles, shins, thighs, fingers, hands, and lower arms”.
Many reported cases of discoloured skin, or hyperpigmentation, happen to people with ESRD. One of the causes is related to pigments called urochromes, which are retained in the skin. Patients with this condition tend to have grayish, almost metallic color skin. Another discoloration is called uremic frost. This is a white, powdery substance left on the skin surface after the sweat dries.
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