“Crime TV fans know how easily drugs can be detected by skin and nail analysis,” says Dr. Dee Mangin, Data Based Medicine’s Chief Medical Officer. “However, in real life we often don’t make the connection between the prescription drugs we take and their effects on our bodies.”
Arsenic, the poison of choice for inheritance-minded spouses in the 19th century, was actually more commonly used in the cosmetic sense — to lighten skin color and whiten eyes. Unfortunately, one could easily get the dosage wrong and pay the ultimate price for beauty.
Today, skin-bleaching drugs are one of the biggest sellers in the world, and are linked with blood cancers such as leukemia and cancers of the liver and kidneys, as well as a severe skin condition called ochronosis, a form of hyper-pigmentation that causes the skin to turn a dark purple shade.
Oral contraceptives are an even bigger seller. However, many of these are advertised and sold for their beneficial effects on skin rather than for contraception. They can produce clearer skin, but, as a recent issue of Cosmopolitan reports in the article My Skin Was Addicted to the Pill, stopping them can cause rebound acne that no make-up can overcome.
Antibiotics used to treat acne can sensitize the skin to sunburn or can cause overpigmentation and nail bed lifting. Other antibiotics, contraceptives, and diuretics can also cause skin darkening. Blood pressure medications can also cause sensitivity to sunburn and other problems.
Skin side effects may not be seen as medically serious or life threatening and therefore less likely to be reported, but their effects can be devastating to an individual. “Your skin is the face you present to the world,” says Dr. Mangin. “So if there’s a link to one of the drugs you’re on, that’s important information for you to have and to share with others.”
Enter the name of a medication in the box below to see a list of skin and nail related adverse events that have been reported to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
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