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Why Does Skin Turn White When Pressed

  • Synopsis: Published: 2011-06-22 - Intravascular Volume Depletion and what causes your skin to turn white in color or blanched when pressed with a finger and released. For further information pertaining to this article contact: DW.

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What causes your skin to turn white in color, or blanched, when pressed with a finger and released.

I'm sure everyone has experienced it, especially on a red spot on your skin, like a sunburn, but it can happen to people with a dark suntan as well. After applying pressure (like a poke) the skin turns white, very briefly, in the area that received the pressure.

What causes this occurrence

When you press on the skin, you force the blood out of the capillaries and the skin turns white. This is called blanching, blanched skin, skin blanches, or simply skin turns white.

When skin is blanched, it takes on a whitish appearance as blood flow to the region is prevented. If circulation is normal, the capillary blood comes back instantly and skin color returns. But if the blood return is sluggish, the skin stays white for several seconds and can indicate poor blood circulation. Blanching of the skin is usually a localized reaction and may be a sign that the skin tissue is not receiving its usual blood supply - poor circulation - due to swelling, cold, or other problems, such as insufficient blood flow through the vessels.

A test for blanch-ability is called Diascopy and is performed by applying pressure with a finger or glass slide and observing color changes on the skin.

Doctors are continually developing tools for effectively measuring skin blanching in individuals with varying amounts of melanin pigment in the skin. Although a subtle symptom, blanching of the skin remains an important indicator of overall health. A comprehensive examination, history and physical are required and diagnostic studies such as laboratory tests may be necessary. Treatment will depend on the underlying condition.

Detecting changes in skin color is challenging because there is such a wide range of skin coloration in all individuals. Subtle changes like skin blanching may occur gradually over time, or there may be a sudden onset.

Call 911 if Blanching of the skin is accompanied by:

  • Chest pain
  • Sweating profusely
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Air hunger or gasping for breath
  • Shortness of breath or breathing difficulties

Intravascular Volume:

In medicine, intravascular volume status refers to the volume of blood in a patient's circulatory system, and is essentially the blood plasma component of the overall volume status of the body, which otherwise includes both intracellular fluid and extracellular fluid. Intravascular volume depletion can exist in an adequately hydrated person if there is loss of water into interstitial tissue (e.g. due to hyponatremia or liver failure).

Intravascular Volume Depletion:

Volume contraction of intravascular fluid (blood plasma) is termed hypovolemia, and its signs include:

  • A fast pulse
  • A weak pulse
  • Cool extremities (e.g. cool fingers)
  • Infrequent and low volume urination
  • Dry mucous membranes (e.g. a dry tongue)
  • Decreased skin turgor (e.g. the skin remains "tented" when it is pinched)
  • Orthostatic hypotension (dizziness upon standing up from a seated or reclining position, due to a drop in cerebral blood pressure)
  • Poor capillary refill (e.g. when the patient's fingertip is pressed, the skin turns white, but upon release, the skin does not return to pink as fast as it should)

Related Information:

  1. Leucoderma - White Spots and Patches on Skin
  2. Dry Skin Causes and Treatment
  3. Age Spots, Also Known as Sun Spots


Information from our Skin Diseases: Facts & Information section - (Full List).

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