Leukemia Skin Conditions : Understanding the Need for Gentle Skincare
People suffering from leukemia become susceptible to a variety of skin conditions since the disease is a type of cancer that attacks blood cells and tissues; specifically, the bone marrow where blood cells are produced. As abnormal leukemia cells proliferate in the bone marrow, they crowd out the white and red blood cells as well as the platelets that help the blood to coagulate or clot.
Skin Specialist Explains How and Why Leukemia Affects Skin Condition
According to Dr. Amy Forrester who is the Director of Dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania, leukemia patients commonly suffer bleeding into the skin. Still, Dr. Forrester says experiencing skin problems depends on the type of leukemia affliction. She says there are patients who do not have skin issues; albeit suffering from symptoms like fever, nausea, weight loss, fatigue and infections,
Dr. Forrester explained that since leukemia cells disrupt the bone marrow’s production of platelets, the low count or lack of clotting agents set the stage for skin bruising. As a result, when capillaries underneath the skin burst or break, not having enough platelets to clot the blood coming out of the damaged blood vessels will cause uncoagulated blood to leak into the skin.
On the outside, Dr. Forrester describes the skin bleeding as a cluster of reddish, brownish or purplish round spots that she calls petechiae (puh-TEE-kee-ee). In some cases, skin bleeding also appears as purpura, which are spots larger than petechiae; or as bruises (ecchymoses.)
As these skin bleeding conditions usually take weeks to ease out, Dr. Forrester gives advice for leukemia patients to apply gentle skin care and as much as possible, avoid any form of physical injury to prevent skin bleeding.
Moreover, since leukemia cells also disrupt the full development of white blood cells into mature blood cells that fight against infection, the skin becomes more susceptible to fungal or bacterial infections. In such cases, the health care provider prescribes the appropriate anti-infection therapy in the form of cream and/or oral medication.
General Skin Care Advice for Leukemia Patients
During treatment, leukemia patients experience dryness, sensitivity, itchiness and/or soreness of the skin as side effects arising from cancer treatments. In managing these side effects, it is necessary for leukemia patients to give extra care to their skin to alleviate the discomfort of such side effects.
Generally, dermatologists or skin specialists give the following advice in managing skin conditions while undergoing leukemia treatment or therapy:
- Use only skin products made from natural ingredients as harsh chemicals, especially in perfumes, can heighten the dry and itchy conditions of the skin.
- Avoid using skin exfoliators or scrubs and use soap sparingly when washing the face as these contain ingredients that dry the skin further.
- Regularly use moisturizers and lip balms made from natural ingredients and without alcohol content to help hydrate the skin and lips. When moisturizing, give particular attention to the hands, fingernails, feet and toenails, especially when undergoing chemotherapy.
- Always keep one’s skin protected against the rays of the sun to prevent sunburn that can aggravate skin soreness.
In case of hair loss as a result of therapy, always wear a hat, and apply sun cream to sensitive scalp and neck areas especially if left partly uncovered.
It’s also best to first consult with a dermatologist before using a skin care product, to make sure the formulation do not contain alcohol/ or other harsh ingredients Dermatologists nowadays have their own line of natural skin care products, which they commission private label manufacturers to develop based on the clinic’s specifications.