07/30/2013 05:43AM ● Published by Style
You exercise, eat right and take your vitamins, so you must be healthy, right?
Maybe, but maybe not. Look in the mirror for signs your body needs a health overhaul.
What you see: Dry, flaky skin
What it might mean: You’re using harsh products and bathing in water that’s too hot
“Modification of habits will usually take care of the problem,” says Dr. Seema Maple, who practices family medicine with Sutter Medical Group, noting it’s good to use products meant for sensitive skin and avoid scented detergents and dryer sheets. Other possible dry skin culprits include conditions that require additional treatment, such as eczema or psoriasis, blood pressure medications, and hormonal changes due to menopause. Good nutrition can help, too. Dr. Maple advises eating foods rich in vitamin A, as well as omega-3 and omega-6, including fish, whole grains, flax seeds and walnuts.
What you see: Bloodshot eyes
What it might mean: Allergies or pinkeye
“There are many potential causes of bloodshot eyes,” says Dr. Jennifer Li, an assistant professor at UC Davis Eye Center. “These range from relatively minor things such as allergies or dry eyes, to severe diseases of the immune system. The key is to know when [it’s] important to have your eyes examined by an ophthalmologist.” With allergies, you may have dry eyes or mild irritation, as well as itchiness or a feeling of having sand in your eyes; Dr. Li suggests using over-the-counter artificial tears. You might have viral conjunctivitis, a.k.a. pinkeye, if your eyes seem bloodshot “with significant discharge or mucus.” Dr. Li says pinkeye frequently gets better on its own but advises that it’s “important to practice good hand hygiene and avoid touching the eyes to prevent the spread of disease to others.” Go to an eye doctor right away to prevent long-term damage. If you have severely red eyes accompanied by pain, light sensitivity or a decrease in vision.
What you see: Noticeable hair loss
What it might mean: Hormone changes, thyroid problems, or a dieting side effect
“We lose 50 to 100 hairs daily,” Dr. Maple says. “That is normal.” If you’re losing hair in clumps, have scalp redness or itching, see your doctor. Hair loss typically occurs in women about four to six months after childbirth and again during menopause. Hair that normally would have been lost during pregnancy stays with women and may seem to shed excessively in the months after giving birth. Other potential reasons for hair loss include polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and thyroid disease. Dr. Maple also says crash dieting can result in hair loss. Women lose hair all over the scalp, while men generally get a receding hairline. Volumizing treatments and Rogaine—which, according to Dr. Maple, results in new hair growth in a quarter of the patients who use the product—can be helpful.
What you see: A swollen, irritated tongue
What it might mean: Cold or an allergy
You probably don’t check out your tongue all the time but if it’s swollen, you need to pay attention to what’s going on. “It’s common to have mild swelling of the tongue with some colds,” says Dr. Maple, who explains rapid tongue swelling could indicate a serious allergy. Other mouth issues to consider include a coating on your tongue and halitosis. “A coating on the tongue could be from medication or germs in the mouth,” Dr. Maple says. “Brushing the tongue is helpful to control bad breath.”