Most people only head to the doctor for checkups once a year. Annual physicals are intended to check on patients’ overall health and evaluate them for signs of illness or injury, but they don’t tell those patients much about how their health is holding up between appointments. Read on to find out about how to interpret physical signs of good and ill health year-round to see how they impact patients’ overall health profiles.
Not everyone realizes this, but dental health is a predictor of overall wellness. Gum disease has been linked to everything from diabetes to heart disease and serious infections can spread to other areas of the body, causing potentially serious health repercussions. The best ways to protect against gum disease are to maintain a consistent home oral hygiene routine and take advantage of the professional services available at altaskydental.com.
Skin quality can also be a predictor of overall health. While there’s no reason to be concerned about things like acne outbreaks, patients should be on the lookout for more serious problems like solar keratoses, dark spots or darkening skin, and constant flushing. Red palms can also be a symptom of liver disease, so pay attention to this subtle but important sign.
Fingernails and Toenails
A patient’s fingernails and toenails can offer more insight into overall health than many consumers might assume. Horizontal lines can indicate past health problems or ongoing poor nutrition, outward-curving nails may be a symptom of anemia, and discoloration at the cuticles and tips can indicate kidney problems. Look for any abnormalities, including ridges, bumps, and discoloration, and ask a doctor if a new problem arises.
It’s normal to experience slight internal temperature fluctuations, especially when environmental factors come into play. However, consistently cold extremities and constant body temperature fluctuations can both be signs of trouble. Cold hands and feet can indicate circulation issues, and spontaneous body temperature fluctuations may be due to underlying neurological problems.
It’s not uncommon to experience some swelling in the neck during acute bouts of illness, but chronic or unexplained swelling may indicate more serious problems. Goiters, which form more slowly in the front of the neck, are symptomatic of an overactive thyroid condition called Graves’ disease. They’re typically accompanied by unintentional weight loss and most commonly affect women ages 20 to 50.
There’s a reason the areas around the pupils are called the whites of the eyes. If they’re any other color, it can indicate serious underlying health problems. Yellowing eyes may indicate jaundice, while pink eyes are a symptom of both conjunctivitis and chlamydia. Don’t overreact, though. Short-term changes in eye coloration can occur due to fatigue and hangovers, so look for patterns, not just one day of red or yellow eyes. Any patient who notices unexplained ocular discoloration should schedule an appointment with his or her doctor as soon as possible to avoid more serious health complications.
The Bottom Line
It’s often possible to catch illnesses early, but only if patients know what physical signs and symptoms to look for. The six clues described above aren’t the only ways the body can manifest underlying problems externally, but they’re easier to notice than some. Don’t assume that checking for physical symptoms of illness can replace annual physicals, because it can’t, but do keep an eye out for worrying changes and report them to a doctor immediately in the 12 months between wellness exams.