In the French language, “blanc” translates to “white.” Blanching of the skin occurs when the skin becomes white or pale in appearance.

Blanching of the skin is typically used by doctors to describe findings on the skin. For example, blood vessels, such as spider veins, on the skin can be identified easily if they are blanchable, meaning that you can make them go away by pressing on them.

Dermatologists often use a procedure called diascopy to do this. It involves pressing a glass slide on the lesion to see if it blanches or “goes away.”

Blanching is also a characteristic finding in erythema, blanching redness on the skin, which essentially represents inflammation on the skin and can be present in a variety of different disorders.

When something blanches, it typically indicates a temporary obstruction of blood flow to that area. This causes the color of that area to become pale relative to the surrounding skin.

You can test this on yourself if you press gently on an area of your skin, it likely turns lighter before resuming its natural color.

Raynaud’s phenomenon

Raynaud’s phenomenon and Raynaud’s disease are associated with blanching of the skin. These conditions are marked by spasmodic constriction of the arterial blood vessels, which can cause:

  • blanching of the skin
  • numbness
  • pain

According to the National Institutes of Health, 5 percent of Americans have Raynaud’s. The condition most commonly affects:

  • the fingers
  • toes

However, rarely some people have symptoms on their:

  • nose
  • lips
  • ears

Skin conditions

Several skin conditions can cause blanching of the skin:

  • Frostbite is when the skin’s tissues become frozen, resulting in loss of blood flow.
  • Pressure sores may be discovered in their early formation due to blanching of skin which can indicate impaired blood flow. Blanching is usually the primary indicator of an impending ulcer formation.
  • Erythema represents redness on the skin that can be blanched. It can be seen in a variety of inflammatory skin disorders.
  • Blood vessels on the skin, such as vascular lesions like spider veins, are blanchable. These can be seen in a variety of disorders such as rosacea, sun-damaged skin, or in liver disease. Pregnant women’s skin may also display this condition.

Blanching of the skin causes the skin to appear white or paler than usual, depending on your skin tone. The skin may feel cool to the touch if blood flow is affected.

Seek immediate medical attention if you or a loved one experiences any of the following symptoms in addition to blanching of skin:

  • ulcers forming on the areas of blanched skin, such as the fingertips
  • severe pain

A doctor diagnoses blanching of skin by conducting a physical examination to determine potential causes. They’ll examine how the skin looks around the blanched area and request your medical history to determine any conditions that may contribute to the blanching of skin.

Treatments for blanching of skin depend upon the underlying cause. For example, in Raynaud’s phenomenon, lifestyle changes, such as avoiding the cold can be a treatment method. Amlodipine is a blood pressure pill used off-label to help treat the condition.

For Raynaud’s phenomenon, keep the skin warm through:

  • layering
  • wearing mittens or warm socks
  • refraining from staying in the cold too long

For pressure ulcers, people who have to remain in bed due to a health condition require frequent turning to keep excess pressure from causing bedsores.

Pressure points such as the buttocks, elbows, and the heels are vulnerable to pressure that can cause wounds known as decubitus ulcers.

Blanching of the skin is typically a sign of restricted blood flow to an area of the skin causing it to become paler than the surrounding area. See your doctor if you believe that you may have a condition causing blanching of the skin.