(Medical Daily) Our external body parts may be sending us important signals about our health. Often, mere changes in color, shape or texture in certain body parts could be signs of an underlying medical issue that should be addressed. Here are six parts to pay attention to:
The appearance of white dots or lines on your fingernails have been linked to mineral deficiencies but some health experts insist this is only a myth.
“Sometimes, a change in the appearance of your nails does indicate an underlying disease, but these changes would be more dramatic than just the occasional white spot,” said Dr. Andrew Weil, director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona.
But the progressive whitening of the entire nail bed, known as Terry’s nails, may indicate health conditions such as cirrhosis, chronic renal failure, and congestive heart failure.
Loss, thinning and dryness of hair may be signs of a thyroid disorder. Both an underactive and an overactive thyroid can affect the hair growth cycle and the follicles, causing hair to fall out. But the loss of hair in the outer edge of the eyebrows may specifically be an indicator of an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).
Sudden changes in female breasts such as thickening or the development of lumps should not be ignored. While most women don’t have perfect breast symmetry, one breast suddenly becoming bigger than the other can indicate problems such as an infection or even cancer. Nipple discharge in non-pregnant women should be checked out by a doctor, especially if it contains blood or occurs without stimulation or irritation.
Blurry vision can be a symptom of diabetic retinopathy. Excessive glucose can damage the small blood vessels connected to the retina even during prediabetes — when the patient has not been diagnosed with the condition. For people who are under the age of 50, the development of white or light-grey circles in the eyes can be a strong sign of high cholesterol.
The human tongue can offer many clues to identify potential health concerns.
“Any discoloration, lumps, sores or pain should be monitored and evaluated by a medical professional if they don’t go away within two weeks,” said Dr. Daniel Allan, a physician at Cleveland Clinic.
Normally, tongues are pink and covered in small bumps called papillae. A smooth, white tongue can signal nutritional deficiencies in the body. Dr. Allan explained this can often be seen in smokers as a potential sign of leukoplakia. The condition can be “a precursor to cancer” but isn’t “inherently dangerous” on its own.
“If you see what you think could be leukoplakia, contact your dentist for an evaluation,” Dr. Allan added.
Swollen feet and ankles are caused by a variety of issues such as hormone fluctuations or excessive salt consumption. In more serious cases, they could also indicate congestive heart failure, as the organ is unable to pump enough blood, leading to a fluid build up. The swelling may also be linked to the presence of blood clots.
“The clot causes pressure to increase behind the area of obstruction, and that increased pressure pushes the fluids in the blood out of the veins into the tissues,” said Dr. Roy Silverstein, vice president of the American Society of Hematology.
– Sadhana Bharanidharan
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