The color of skin: red diseases of the skin, nails, and mucosa.


Department of Dermatology, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Newark, New Jersey, USA; Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Newark, New Jersey, USA. Electronic address: [Email]


Red color is pervasive in local and systemic skin conditions. It is a color that often reflects variations of dermal blood flow and extends beyond the rubor and calor of inflammation. The pathophysiology of red skin involves remote and local chemical mediators that dilate arteriolar smooth muscle and increase blood flow to superficial vessels and capillary beds. Incident light hits hemoglobin, which preferentially absorbs light of shorter wavelengths, such as blue, and reflects warmer colors. Due to its pervasiveness and consistency, red color is a useful descriptive factor in helping narrow a differential diagnosis. Red skin disorders include a variety of conditions involving endocrine mediators, cardiovascular responses, and the disruption of the skin barrier. An understanding of the blood's role in these disorders equips clinicians to generate differential diagnoses through the lens of pathophysiology. Dermatologists can improve management by considering red skin as part of systemic disease rather than as an isolated incident.

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