Medical professionals who have not been trained to know what symptoms of diseases or chronic conditions of the skin look like on various skin tones are more likely to misdiagnose their patients of color. Here we will lay out some of the different ways skin conditions present themselves between differing skin tones.
Lyme disease: Recent studies have identified that darker skin tones are more likely to have a delayed or misdiagnosis of this serious disease. The key indicator taught to identify this condition is a bright bull’s-eye rash on the skin. However, darker skin tones do not display this as clearly due to contrast and often only get diagnosed once they experience other symptoms such as arthritis as the disease progresses.
Melanoma: This type of skin cancer is dangerous and often diagnosed at a later stage in people of darker skin tones. People of lighter skin tones typically have this condition on skin that has been exposed to the sun, but people of darker skin tones often get lesions on the undersides of feet, finger/toenails, palms of hands, or inside the mouth.
Bruising: Bruising develops the same on everyone, however, can be less apparent on dark skin due to contrast. It is important to note how bruising appears on different skin tones as it could he an indicator for a more chronic condition. For example, people with a medium skin tone can have more red and yellow in their bruises.
Eczema: Eczema on darker skin tones tends to appear browner, violet, or ash gray. While on lighter skin tones looks more reddish. Darker complexions are also more susceptible to develop small bumps on the extremities and torso, as well as dry skin and dark under-eye circles that can thicken if scratched.
Vitiligo: This is a condition where the immune system attacks pigmented cells, resulting in lightened patches on the skin. It can affect anyone but can be more distressing for patients of color because the discoloration is more distinct. The lighter patches can look like other conditions such as tinea versicolor, leading to misdiagnosis in people of color.