Pallor is skin paleness. It occurs when your skin or mucous membranes, like the lining of your eyes, turn a lighter color than normal. There are several causes of pallor. They range from emotional distress to an underlying condition, like anemia. Pallor is usually temporary. It goes away once you treat or manage its cause.


What is pallor?

Pallor, pronounced “pal-oar,” means paleness or a loss of color from your normal skin tone. Pallor affects your skin and mucous membranes. Your mucous membranes are the moist lining of the inside of your body, like the inside of your nose, your lungs and your mouth. Pallor is usually temporary, and your skin will go back to normal. However, you may have long-term paleness if an underlying, undiagnosed condition causes your symptoms. Treatment for any underlying condition resolves paleness.


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Is pallor the same as albinism?

No, pallor and albinism are different conditions. Albinism occurs when your body doesn’t produce pigment. Pigment is the color of your skin, hair and eyes. Pallor is the sudden loss of color to your skin, and it doesn’t affect your pigment. With treatment and lifestyle changes, your natural skin tone will return to normal after a pallor diagnosis.

Symptoms and Causes

What are the symptoms of pallor?

Symptoms of pallor include:

  • Pale skin that’s lighter or grayer than your natural skin tone.
  • Pale mucous membranes on openings of your body, like inside of your mouth or on your eyelids.

If pallor occurs because of an underlying condition, you may experience the following symptoms in addition to skin paleness:


Where will I see symptoms of pallor?

Pallor can affect the skin on your whole body or your mucous membranes, but it’s most notable on your:

  • Face.
  • Fingernails.
  • Lining of your eyes.
  • Inside of your mouth.

What is localized pallor?

Localized pallor is a term that refers to paleness on only one limb. For example, if you have localized pallor, you might only have paleness on your right arm after an injury. Localized pallor may be a sign of an underlying condition, so it’s important to visit a healthcare provider if you have this symptom.


What causes pallor?

A decrease in blood supply and oxygen in your skin causes pallor. There are many reasons why pallor occurs, ranging from:

  • An emotional response like fear or shock.
  • A side effect of a medication.
  • An underlying health condition.

What conditions cause pallor?

Pallor can be a symptom of a condition including but not limited to the following:

What are the risk factors for pallor?

Pallor can affect anyone, from children to adults. It’s a common condition to find in movies and television shows during dramatic and suspenseful moments. For example, a character feels fear or shock, turns pale and faints. While these scenarios in the media aren’t the most accurately depicted, they bring awareness to the symptoms of pallor to look out for in yourself, your family and friends.

Diagnosis and Tests

How is pallor diagnosed?

A healthcare provider will diagnose pallor after taking a complete medical history and performing a physical exam. They may ask you questions about your symptoms, like:

  • When did you first notice your symptoms?
  • Do you have other symptoms besides paleness, like shortness of breath or pain?
  • Are you aware of any emotional events that might have triggered your symptoms, like fear or anxiety?

What tests diagnose pallor?

Your provider might offer tests to confirm a diagnosis or determine what caused your symptoms. Tests could include:

  • A blood test, like a complete blood count (CBC) or a blood differential test, to identify how many blood cells are in a sample of your blood.
  • An endoscopy or a colonoscopy to check for internal bleeding.
  • Organ function tests for your heart, kidneys or lungs.
  • Imaging tests, like an X-ray or angiography, to identify internal injuries or to see the inside of your arteries.

Management and Treatment

There are four ways to treat pallor, both at home and under your healthcare provider’s direction.
You can treat pallor or pale skin at home by reducing your stress and eating a healthy diet. Your provider can help you manage any underlining conditions and treat vitamin deficiencies.

How is pallor treated?

Treatment for pallor varies based on what caused the paleness of your skin. Your healthcare provider will offer diagnostic tests to help them choose the best treatment for you and your symptoms. Treatment for pallor could include:

  • Managing any underlying conditions with medications or treatment by a specialist.
  • Eating a well-balanced diet.
  • Taking vitamins or supplements for a vitamin deficiency.
  • Calming yourself if you’re stressed, anxious or afraid.

For rare but severe cases of pallor, you may need surgery or blood transfusions. These may be necessary if you’re recovering from a traumatic injury or have blockages in your arteries or internal bleeding.

How long does pallor last?

Pallor is usually a temporary condition, so your symptoms could go away in a few minutes to hours or a few days, depending on what caused your symptoms. Paleness caused by emotional distress like fear or anxiety usually goes away quickly when you’re able to lower your heart rate to a normal level and relax. Conditions like anemia may take longer to treat and manage, so it could take several months before your skin returns to its usual tone.


How can I prevent pallor?

You can’t entirely prevent pallor, but you can reduce your risk of skin paleness by:

  • Eating a healthy diet.
  • Treating any underlying health conditions.
  • Visiting a mental health professional to manage your stress, anxiety or fears.
  • Stop smoking.

Outlook / Prognosis

What can I expect if I have pallor?

Your outlook with pallor, or skin paleness, depends on what caused your symptoms and how soon you seek treatment. Usually, pallor clears up quickly after a diagnosis and treatment or management of the underlying condition.

Pallor can be a sign of a condition that needs immediate treatment, so don’t delay visiting a healthcare provider if your skin becomes unusually pale.

Living With

When should I see my healthcare provider?

Visit your healthcare provider if:

  • Paleness isn’t getting better, or it’s getting worse.
  • Only one part of your body is unusually pale.
  • You have additional symptoms like pain, difficulty breathing or a rapid heart rate.
  • You experience paleness after an injury.

What questions should I ask my doctor?

  • What caused my symptoms?
  • Do I need to see a specialist to treat my underlying condition?
  • How soon will my skin return to normal?
  • How do I prevent symptoms from returning?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Hearing the phrase, “You look pale,” during a dramatic television show or movie can lead to suspense or an adrenaline-pumping reaction to the characters on your screen. In reality, it can cause concern if it happens to you or someone you know. Pallor causes skin paleness and, potentially, symptoms of dizziness, a rapid heart rate or difficulty breathing. If your skin doesn’t return to normal or you have paleness along with symptoms that affect your ability to thrive, don’t delay and visit a healthcare provider.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 09/29/2023.

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