DIGESTIVE DISORDERS / GASTROENTEROLOGY
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Salty Skin
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by Salty__0, Dec 13, 1998
  I am a 42-year-old woman with MS and diffuse hypogammoglobulinemia.  
  I've recently noticed that my skin is tasting salty, whether or not I am sweating.  I understand that this is in indicator for Cystic Fibrosis.  Are there any other diseases or conditions that cause salty skin?  Should I be tested for CF?  I have chronic bowel problems and mild asthma.  My electrolytes are often out of balance.  Am I worrying needlessly, or is salty skin something to be concerned about?  It's really salty!
Dear Salty,
Cystic fibrosis is characterized by pancreatic insufficiency, lung problems, liver disease, other gastrointestinal manifestations,  reproductive, skeletal  and other abnormalities ( such as elevated sweat chloride and heat stroke). In most patients the diagnosis is made in the first several years of life; in 3% of cases, however, the diagnosis established after the age of 18 years. It would be unlikely for you to be first diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of 42. As you mentioned, the diagnosis of cystic fibrosis is established with the sweat test (quantitative pilocarpine iontophoresis). The sodium and chloride concentrations in sweat are elevated in 98-99 percent of patients with cystic fibrosis. Nevertheless, the test is a very demanding one to perform and is reliable only in cystic fibrosis centers.
There are other conditions reported with elevated sweat electrolyte concentration. Many of these associations are based on description of only a few patients and in many of these situations the elevations are usually transient. Examples of these conditions include: adrenal insufficiency, familial hypoparathyroidism, diabetes insipidus, acute respiratory disorders, chronic respiratory disorders, environmental deprivation syndrome and others. You may want to report your symptoms to your primary physician so that some of these disorders can be excluded. I hope you find this information helpful.
This response is being provided for general informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or consultation. Always check with your personal physician when you have a question pertaining to your health.
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