If you want to keep an eye on your health, you could do worse than to spend a few minutes scrutinizing your body in the mirror. Are your eyes pink? Have your nails turned brown at the top? Noticing small changes can nudge you into paying attention to potential problems, as I found out during a recent facial. “Do you have high cholesterol?” creamy spots round my eyes? which could be full of fatty cholesterol. Of course, it’s vital not to let symptom-spotting get out of hand: Trivial signs are often just that. It’s when they persist, or are combined with other symptoms, that they become important. If that’s the case, see your doctor.
1. Going grey before 40
Premature greying can have a medical cause. “If you have 50% grey hair before the age of 40, it is worth being checked for diabetes.
2. Rough spots
Crusty blemishes, or keratoses, are usually benign. Dark ones often run in families, but are harmless. Solar keratoses, however, are triggered by sun damage and are an early warning of skin cancer, so seek advice.
3. Short brows
Losing hair from the outer edge of your brows is a sign of an under active thyroid. It thins hair on your head too, but treatment is available that will soon restore your crowning glory.
4. Hooded eyelids
They may look sultry, but have them checked — the cause could be more than aging or a family trait. If they droop so much that your sight is impaired, this is the one time you can have an eye-lift on your insurance.
5. Not-so-white whites
This usually means you’re tired, hungover, or just made that way, but watch out for whites that turn yellow when you’re run down — it may be a sign of Gilbert’s Syndrome, where bilirubin builds up in the blood, causing jaundice. “Pink eye” is a common name for conjunctivitis. If it persists, have a test for chlamydia, which can inflame eyes.
6. Creased earlobes
Earlobe creases probably increase with age, as does the likelihood of heart disease, diagonal crease can up the risk of heart disease by a third and 77% if both lobes are affected. The theory is the line shows a lack of elasticity, which also affects the arteries. But the culprit also could be also aging:
7. Flushed face
Red cheeks and nose (rosacea) often affects women aged between 30 and 55. Stress, sun, and spicy foods make blood vessels dilate, so limit your exposure. Rosacea can affect the eyes and is sometimes confused with lupus. See a general practitioner, who can prescribe antibiotics.
8. Cracked lips
Cracks at the corners of your mouth are sometimes caused by a shortage of B vitamins or zinc. With long-term cracks, a fungal infection may set in. Treatments for oral thrush may help.
9. Sunless tan
Darkening skin is worth reporting to your doctor. A rare cause is Addison’s disease (failure of the adrenal glands), which also makes you tired, sick, and achy. If you do have it, the good news is that it can be treated.
10. Chicken skin
Permanent goosebumps, caused by an overgrowth of keratin, are common — one in three of us have them, usually on the arms. They’re harmless, but if they bother you, use a soap-free body wash and plenty of moisturizer. If they flare up, your dermatologist may prescribe a steroid cream.
11. Red palms
These can be an early symptom of liver disease — you’ll probably feel sick and lethargic, too. It’s wise to ask for medical advice quickly to limit the damage
12. Unsightly nails
A horizontal line (or Beau’s line) can be a sign of past illness or poor nutrition — or that you’ve hit your nail with a hammer. But if they keep appearing, take steps to improve your health. Spoon-shaped nails that curve outwards can be a symptom of anaemia. And nails that are pale at the cuticle and brownish-red at the tip could mean your kidneys are struggling.
13. Cold feet
They are a long way from your heart, so your feet are often the first place vascular disease shows up. Abnormally cold feet and hands are linked to Raynaud’s syndrome, where the blood supply drains from fingers and toes. But don’t just reach for your socks — Raynaud’s is linked to several autoimmune conditions, so it needs to be checked out.