by Michelle Maffei
From taking a peek at your peepers to skimming over your skin, these eight do-it-yourself medical checkups can help you catch life-threatening medical conditions before they turn deadly, and in turn, live life to the fullest.
Observe your tresses for changes that may be medically related, like color change or thinning, especially when combined with other symptoms such as fatigue. According to a news reports, hair thinning in women can be caused by low iron levels or a vitamin D deficiency. “However, both sexes experiencing thinning hair on the head and/or eyebrows may be suffering from an underactive thyroid gland, “says Jacob DeLaRosa, MD, Idaho State University and Cardiothoracic Surgery at Portneuf Medical Center. And, although genes may be the culprits, prematurely going gray just may be a tell-tale sign that you have a B-12 vitamin deficiency, so talk to your doctor if you have concerns.
Take a quick look in the mirror and see what your peepers may be trying to tell you. Drooping eyelids can be a tell tale symptom of a stroke, Healthline.com. Or, you may spy signs of high cholesterol in the form of small lumps on the skin around your eye. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for bulging eyes, which may indicate thyroid disease, reports the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. Finally, let your doctor know if you notice your eyelids have become pale in color, which may signal anemia.
As the saying goes, “The nose knows,” so pay attention! Watch for redness on your nose, which could be a sign of illness, chronic sinus problems, or rosacea, a skin disease that makes your nose appear flushed. However, experiencing a red and runny nose when eating spicy foods is little reason to dial up your doctor.
Scheduling regular dental exams is the best way to detect oral health concerns, but analyzing your chops at home can help you dig up possible health concerns between appointments. “Bleeding gums can be a sign of gingivitis, as well as cancer or diabetes, especially if coupled with loose teeth and bad breath,” advises Dr. DeLaRosa.
You should also contact your physician or dentist immediately if you notice white and red patches in your mouth or lips, which is a warning sign for oral cancer. “Oral cancer is on the rise in the U.S.,” said Dr. Ross Kerr, chair of the Oral Cancer Task Force of the American Academy of Oral Medicine. “Today we are seeing young, non-smoking individuals as the fastest growing segment of the oral cancer population.”
Grab a mirror and take a gander at your earlobes for signs of a 45-degree crease. This may be an indicator of certain genetic disorders like Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, especially when detected in young people, reports Dr. William Elliott at the University of Chicago. Men with this revealing mark are also more likely to be prone to heart disease according to Swedish, Turkish, Canadian, and Irish studies, however it is thought that an increase in age may also be a contributing factor to both earlobe creases and heart attacks more than earlobe creases alone.
Scan your skin for changes in color, complexion, and moles to ensure you’re only sporting a healthy glow. Jaundice, most commonly associated with newborns, can also affect you in adulthood, so take note of any yellowing of your skin. Watch for signs of dehydration by noting pale skin, while a blotchy complexion may indicate irritable bowel syndrome. And, as you may already know, be sure to immediately notify your physician of any changes in size or color of your moles, which may signal skin cancer.
As daunting as the task may seem, step onto the scale to keep tabs on your weight for sudden loss or gain. Hypothyroidism, also known as an underactive thyroid, can cause sudden weight gain, while an overactive thyroid could have you shedding weight unexpectedly. And, the Mayo Clinic warns against unintentional loss of up to 10 percent of your weight within a six month period, which could point to depression, liver disease, cancer, or disorders that block your body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
Women are familiar with breast self-exams, but most men may be surprised to learn that they should be performing their own cancer self-exams starting at age 20, specifically in the testicle area. Check for significant enlargement or loss of size in a testicle, a feeling of heaviness or pain in the scrotum, or a sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum. Also check for cancerous lumps, which are usually found on the sides or front of the testicles and contact your physician or urologist with any concerns, urges The Testicular Cancer Resource Center.
Remember that there are some conditions that cannot be detected on your own, so don’t skip out on a trip to your physician just because your self-examinations come up empty. Combined with exercise, healthy eating, and a heightened awareness of the signs your body may be sending, a trip to your M.D. is ultimately the best way to get a clean bill of health.