What Your Look Says About Your Health

WHAT YOUR LOOK SAYS ABOUT YOUR HEALTH (from Karen Pallarito, msn.com)

Good health often is reflected in an attractive, youthful appearance. So you might be tempted to blame aging and stress for facial lines, unsightly fingernails, or hair loss when, in fact, these flaws can signal underlying health issues.

  • Wrinkles: Although wrinkles are inevitable, they also may be a sign of osteoporosis.  The worse the wrinkling, the greater the risk of lower bone density. Most wrinkles are the result of aging, but excessive exposure to cigarette smoke or the sun can speed the process.
  • Swollen feet: Shoes too snug? Many conditions, including sprains, strains, injuries, and infections, can cause feet and ankles to balloon. Pregnancy, obesity, and certain medications may cause fluid retention in the lower extremities.  So can heart disease.
  • Pitted nails: If you avoid the manicurist because your nails are a mess, maybe you need to see a doctor. Nails that are pitted, deformed, or discolored (yellow-brown), or nails that thicken or separate from the nail bed, can point to many health problems.  Nail changes are common in people with psoriasis, a chronic skin condition; psoriatic arthritis, a related joint condition; and alopecia areata, a type of patchy hair loss.  Pitting has been reported in patients with Reiter’s syndrome, a type of arthritis, and incontinentia pigmenti, a genetic skin condition.
  • Large hands and feet: You would worry, and rightly so, if a loved one developed a protruding jaw, a prominent forehead, and out-of-proportion hands and feet. All are classic signs of acromegaly, a hormonal disorder that occurs in adults when the pituitary gland makes too much growth hormone.  But would you notice the person’s change in appearance? Because it’s such a rare disorder—and because changes in bone and soft tissue occur slowly over time—it doesn’t dawn on people and often goes undetected.
  • A foul mouth: Bad teeth and gums aren’t just signs of poor oral hygiene. Your mouth could be saying nasty things about your heart and bones.  Brushing is good for your heart too.  People who brush less than twice a day have a 70 percent greater risk of heart disease or death from heart disease.
  • Facial flush: You might look red in the face, but it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Facial redness with acne-like skin sores are common symptoms of rosacea, a chronic skin condition.  Although the exact cause is not known, people with rosacea appear red and flushed in the face due to blood-vessel enlargement. Over time, bumps and pimples may form and the nose may grow bulbous.
  • Hair loss: Eww!  What should you make of that glob of hair at the bottom of the shower? Pregnancy, stress, disease, medications, and changes in hormones all can contribute to hair loss.  Among women in particular, dry, thinning hair may be a sign of an underactive or overactive thyroid. A simple blood test can check whether the body is making normal amounts of thyroid hormone.
  • Cracked lips: Your lips can say a lot about your health. Severely cracked, dry lips may be a reaction to medication, an occupational hazard (if you’re a brass musician), or a symptom of allergy, infection, or other conditions. Cracking at the corners of the mouth may be a symptom of Sjögren’s (pronounced SHOW-grens) syndrome, an immune system disorder. Sjögren’s causes dry eyes and dry mouth, as well as joint pain and dry skin. As many as 4 million Americans—mostly women—have this condition.
  • Moles: Sometimes a mole is just a harmless growth. Other moles signal the presence of skin cancer. Which ones mean trouble?  Look for growths that are asymmetrical, have an irregular border, vary in color, have a diameter larger than 6 millimeters (one-quarter inch), or are changing or evolving. Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, may exhibit one or more of these features. People should tell their doctor if they notice any changes on their skin, advises the National Cancer Institute.
  • Yellow eyes: They’re a window into your health, so when your eyes—specifically the whites of your eyes—turn yellow, there’s reason to suspect trouble.  In adults, it can be a sign of liver disease. Anyone with yellowing of the eyes should see their physician for further evaluation.

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