Is your body trying to warn you? Find out how certain symptoms can be a sign of ill health.

What can your body can tell you about your health?

Is your body sending you warning signals about underlying health problems ?

 

Nuriss founder GP Dr. Anita tells us the warning signs we should be watching out for:

Hair

If your hair is dry and brittle hair and breaks easily, it could be down to dietary deficiency. Your hair is made up of a protein called keratin and if you’re not getting enough protein in your diet, it could weaken your hair.

What to do:

Try increasing your healthy proteins and include foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids such as oily fish, nuts and avocados. If your hair doesn’t improve go to have some checks with your doctor.

If you are noticing a thinning of your hair this could be a sign of hypothyroidism ( an under-active thyroid gland). When you have this condition there is a reduced level of thyroid hormone in the body. This can cause various problems including hair loss, weight gain, fatigue, heavy periods and constipation.

What to do:

Make a note of your symptoms and go to see your GP. A blood test is needed to diagnose this condition.

Excessive facial or body hair could be a sign of a hormonal imbalance, such as that seen in a condition called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). When a woman has PCOS they have cysts in their ovaries and they produce too much of a hormone called Testosterone, which triggers the hair growth.

What to do:

Again, the best way to find out if you have this condition is to have a blood test. You may also need an ultrasound scan of your ovaries.

The odd flake of dandruff is nothing to worry about and is easily treated with an anti-dandruff shampoo, but if your dandruff is starting to turn into thick scaly patches, it could be a sign that you have a condition such as eczema or psoriasis. In both conditions the skin goes into overdrive, speeding up the process of skin cell turnover. If you have another autoimmune disease, such as multiple sclerosis or Crohn’s disease, it ups the chance that you’ll get psoriasis, so be especially wary if you have another autoimmune condition.

What to do: Make an appointment to see your GP for tests.

Eyes

What to look out for:

The eyes are not only windows to the soul – but to your general health. If you’re ill, or just under the weather, the first place it’s likely to show is in your eyes. Healthy eyes should have bright whites with small red blood vessels around the edges, and bright pink inner lids.

What to do:

Redness in the eyes can be alarming but is normally harmless and is usually a sign of inflammation, due to a minor eye condition, such as conjunctivitis.

However, if you have a red eye which is painful and associated with a loss of vision, severe headache, sensitivity to light or extreme watering, this could be a sign of something more serious, like Glaucoma and you should see your GP urgently.

A white, grey or opaque ring around the outer part of your cornea could be arcus senilis. These rings and yellow lumps around the eyelids can both be signs of high cholesterol, which can increase a person’s risk of heart disease and strokes.

Dry eyes can be a sign of Omega 3 deficiency. Omega 3’s are fatty acids and are important nutrients for controlling blood clotting and for protection from heart disease and strokes. They work by stopping bad fats from clogging up our arteries. They are also important nutrients for healthy skin and eyes. Since our bodies can’t make Omega 3, we need to get it from our diet. If you are deficient you should increase your dietary intake of oily fish, salmon, tuna and mackerel which are rich in omega 3 , as are nuts such as almonds and avocados.

Dry eyes can also be caused by autoimmune disease. These are conditions triggered by the body’s immune system attacking itself. Rheumatoid arthritis is an example of this. If you have Rheumatoid Arthritis you may have dry eyes. You are also likely to have painful and swollen joints too.

If you are worried you should see your GP to have some tests done.

 

Skin

What to look out for:

Your skin is much more than an outer surface for the world to see. Aside from the odd hormonal breakout, healthy skin should appear smooth, with no breaks in the surface. It is warm, not hot or red, and neither dry and flaky or overly-oily.

What to do:

One of the most important things to monitor on your skin is your changing moles – particularly those on the face that are suddenly changing in size, shape and colour – could be a sign of skin cancer and you should be seen by a doctor ASAP.

A red ‘butterfly like rash’ on your cheeks could be a sign of SLE, an autoimmune condition which causes inflammation in many parts of the body. Symptoms can include joint pains, and tiredness. Your doctor will need to do some blood tests to diagnose this.

Inflamed scaly patches of skin could be a sign of a chronic skin condition, such as psoriasis or eczema. Always get any changes in your skin checked out first before you try to treat it.

For both of these conditions there are many helpful things that you can do to calm it down. Firstly stop using soap to wash with. These dry the skin and make the inflammation worse. Use aqueous cream as a soap substitute instead. After washing use an emollient such as Dermol. If this doesn’t clear things up then it is worth seeing your GP.

 

Teeth & Gums

What to look out for:

White teeth are admirable, but did you know your oral health can actually reveal a lot about your stress levels? Healthy teeth should be strong and gums should be firm without any bleeding after brushing.

What to do:

Teeth grinding affects up to 10% of the population, but did you know it can be brought on by stress? In most cases it occurs subconsciously in someone’s sleep although it can be caused by anxiety and is made worse by smoking.

You should see your dentist who may advise lifestyle measures, mouth guards or dental treatments.

Discolouration to the lining of the mouth and the health of your gums can also indicate that you may be suffering from problems with your immune system, vitamin or mineral deficiencies, anaemia and even some types of cancer. A lot of people don’t realise that keeping their teeth and gums healthy could help to prevent serious health problems, such as heart disease and strokes.

 

Tongue

What to look out for:

Often hailed as the strongest muscle in the body, the tongue is made up of a group of muscles that allow us to taste food, swallow, and talk. A healthy tongue should be pink with lots of small bumps on its surface.

What to do:

Ulcers on the tongue, gums or lips are common. However, if they do not clear up after 6 weeks you should see a doctor, as this could be a sign of something more serious.

So what does it mean if you’re tongue isn’t a healthy pink?

If your tongue is a blue colour, this could be a sign of a problem with you blood or circulation and a sore, red tongue may be a sign of iron, vitamin B12 or folate deficiency. Its not just the colour you need to check; a lump on the tongue could be a cyst or, at worst, cancer. Ulcerations that don’t heal on the tongue or anywhere in the mouth should be checked out by a doctor.

 

Lips

What to look out for:

In order to perfect your pout you need smooth lips. They should be free from cracks and flaking skin, with a firm even surface. Healthy lips will have a naturally bright colour and are soft to touch.

What to do:

Persistently sore, chapped lips can indicate dehydration, vitamin deficiency or even an allergy. An allergy can cause the lips to swell and is usually quite sudden. An irritant may cause the lips to become red and inflamed at a slower rate than an allergy would. Both can cause the skin to crack and peel. The irritant could be anything from dentist’s gloves to lipstick or peanuts.

Pay attention to your cosmetics and consider an allergy test. The skin on the lips also contains fewer sebaceous glands than the rest of the skin and so is prone to drying out faster than other areas.. When people lick their lips excessively they dry out the few oils there are, leaving the tissue and area around the mouth dry and vulnerable to infections.

 

Abdomen:

What to look out for:

If you are feeling bloated this could be a sign of something harmless, like Irritable Bowel syndrome (IBS). This is a common disorder with symptoms that include tummy pain, bloating, flatulence, constipation and sometimes bouts of diarrhoea.

What to do:

Doctors can normally diagnose this from a clinical history and it is generally managed well with dietary measures and over-the-counter medications. However, a sudden bloating, that persists, should be reported to your GP. Ovarian cancer can present this way, so it’s really important if you are suffering from these symptoms, that you get yourself checked.

 

Joint pains and swelling

What to look out for:

If you noticed that one or more of your joints are swollen, this could be a sign of arthritis. The most common type is called osteoarthritis, which is also often called ‘wear and tear’ of the joints. Symptoms can include pain and stiffness in your joints, with tends to be worse in the mornings and eases as the day goes on. The other common cause of joint pain and swelling is Rheumatoid arthritis, which, as mentioned above, is where your bodies own immune system attacks your joints.

What to do:

Your Doctor can arrange blood tests and scans to assess these symptoms further.

 

Breast lump

Women of all ages are encouraged to check their breasts regularly. If you notice a lump you need to see your GP as soon as possible. In most cases breast lumps turn out to be harmless, for example it may simply be a benign breast cyst. However, if you notice any new breast lumps , any sudden inversion of a nipple, discharge from a nipple or dimpling in your breasts, this could be a sign of breast cancer. You should get this checked ASAP.

 

Men – check your testicles for lumps and swellings at least once a month. Again lumps normally turn out to be harmless cysts but this could be testicular cancer and if caught early there is a better chance of a cure. Please see you Doctor ASAP.

 

Dr Anita Sturnham is a skin and well being specialist from the Nuriss Clinic. She’s a regular expert on TV shows including Embarrassing Bodies, and offers non-surgical aesthetic treatments including Exilis Elite at her clinic in London.