Skin Conditions

Several skin conditions have been linked to obesity.[1] One of the more common problems is yeast infections. Due to the friction and moisture that collects between the abdominal folds, various types of yeast can develop between those folds. In addition, a secondary infection may result from the increased bacterial load found between abdominal folds, which increases the amount of discomfort and disability an obese patient may need to cope with.

Another obesity-related skin condition can occur when the amount of friction between two areas of skin increases. This chronic skin condition is characterized by marble-sized lumps under the skin.

Also, an association between obesity and malignant melanoma has been demonstrated. For obese patients who spend an above average time on their backs, there is an increased risk for the development of bedsores.

When a patient has wounds, it is the tissue just below the skin that is responsible for healing cuts and sores. If a patient is obese, however, the normal mending that these tissues perform is slowed because the extra girth causes tension in these tissues due to stretching. This means that wounds take longer to heal in obese patients than injuries suffered by those who are of a normal weight.

When a large increase in skin tissue occurs, a condition called lymphedema can cause damage to the lymphatic system. When this system isn’t able to return important fluids back into the bloodstream, the results can be skin discoloration, wart-like symptoms, abnormal thickening of the skin, skin tumors, and eventually a deformity where the arms or legs become enlarged.

A condition called plantar hyperkeratosis often occurs in obese patients due to the excessive pressure put on the soles of the feet. Along with the accompanying friction, hypertrophies develop in a horseshoe pattern which envelops the heel, arch, and large toe. This typically causes difficulty when trying to walk, especially in obese women, where footwear choices may play a role.

An autoimmune disease called psoriasis is frequently found in obese patients, though the reasons are not clear. When a patient has psoriasis, red, itchy, and scaly patches can appear on the skin.

Chronic venous insufficiency is a condition, which can be caused by obesity, where the veins are not able to pump enough blood back to the heart. In overweight patients, this usually affects the legs, resulting in edema, ulceration, and even possibly elephantiasis.

[1] Noah S. Scheinfeld, Daniel H. Parish, and Lawrence Charles Parish, “A Primer of Skin Diseases Associated with Obesity,” Medscape. Expert Reviews: Dermatology, 2(4) (2007): 409–15,, accessed July 7, 2016.