Body Signs

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2009-02-24
  • Publisher: Bantam
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We all notice things about our bodies that don't seem quite right. But when are these simply harmless physical quirks and when are they signs that a visit to the doctor is in order? This comprehensive and fascinating guide covers every body part from head to toeand everything in betweento help you decode the often mysterious messages your body sends you. From brittle hair to hair in all the wrong places, a tingling tush, mismatched eyes, streaked nails, inverted nipples, and excessive flatulence, to name just a few, the body supplies endless signs regarding its state of health and wellness. Most of the time these require nothing more than a trip to the drugstore or cosmetic counter, or no treatment at all. At other times further attention is needed. So here's the lowdown on what's happening "down there," the scoop on poop, straight talk about your joints, and a host of essential, even entertaining information on everything you ever wanted to know about your bodybut might have been hesitant to ask even your doctor. Drawn from cutting-edge research and the latest scientific literature, and vetted by a panel of medical experts, this remarkable book also includes historical trivia and fascinating factoids about each body area in question, plus an invaluable resource section. Whether you have a health concern or simply enjoy playing medical detective,Body Signswill not only absorb and inform you but will help you gain a more intimate understanding of the wondrous workings of your body. From the Hardcover edition.

Author Biography

Joan Liebmann-Smith, Ph.D. is a medical sociologist and award-winning medical writer. Her articles have appeared in American Health, Ms., Newsweek, Redbook, Self, and Vogue, and she has appeared on numerous television talk shows, including The Oprah Winfrey Show and The Today Show. She has a daughter, Rebecca, a cat, Fazelnut, and lives with her husband, Richard—also a writer—in New York City.

Jacqueline Nardi Egan is a medical journalist who specializes in developing and writing educational programs with and for physicians, allied health professionals, patients, and consumers. She is also a former medical editor of Family Health magazine. She has a daughter, Elizabeth, two dogs, Coco and Abby, and divides her time between Darien, Connecticut, and Sag Harbor, New York.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. 1
Body Signs Panel of Medical Expertsp. 13
Your Hair: The Long and the Short of itp. 17
Hair Texture Changes
Hair Color Changes
Spotty or Patchy Hair Loss
Balding in Men
Hair Loss in Women
Hair Shedding
Born (Hair) Free
Losing Eyebrows or Eyelashes
Losing Chest and Body Hair
Losing Pubic Hair
Hair in All the Wrong Places
Very Hairy Men
Reading Your Eyesp. 39
Circles Under the Eyes
Bags Under the Eyes
Creases Under The Eyes
Droopy Eyelids
Bulging Eyes
Inside-out Eyelids
Growths on the Eyelid
Lumps and Bumps on the Eyeball
Bloodshot Eyes
Yellow Eyes
Spots on the Eyes
Rings Around the Iris
Different-Sized Pupils
Eye Color
Eye Twitches
Darting Eyes
Phantom Visions
Light Sensitivity
Night Blindness
Color-Vision Changes
Listening to your Earsp. 67
Red Ears
Earlobe Crease
Misshapen Ears
Too Much Earwax
Watery Ear Discharge
Itchy Ears
Stuffy Ears
Ringing in Your Ears
Hearing Your Heartbeat
Sensitivity to Sound
Hearing a Loud Explosion When Sleeping
Hearing Sounds That Others Don't
Gradual Hearing Loss
Sudden Hearing Loss
Your Nose Knowsp. 83
A Red Nose A Bulbous Nose
A Crease over the Nose
Sun Sneezing
Inability to Sneeze
A Very Runny Nose
A Dry Nose
A Smelly Nose
Smelling Problems
Read my lips...and mouthp. 99
Puffy Lips
Pursed Lips
Dry, Cracked Lips
Blue Lips
Burning, Tingling Lips or Mouth
Lip or Mouth Freckles
White or Gray Patches in Your Mouth
White Streaks in the Mouth
Red or Swollen Gums
A Bump or Hole on the Roof of Your Mouth
A Dry Mouth or Excessive Thirst
Watery Mouth
Black Hairy Tongue
White Hairy Tongue
Beefy Red Tongue
Groovy Tongue
A Smooth Tongue
Traveling Tongue Patches
Twitchy Tongue
Diminished or Distorted Sense of Taste
A Metallic or Terrible Taste
Supersensitive Taste
Sweet, Fruity Breath
Garlic Breath
Urine- or Ammonia-Smelling Breath
Fishy Breath
Fecal Breath
Yellow-Brown Teeth
Greenish or Metallic-Colored Teeth
Bluish Gray Teeth
Spotted Teeth
Blackish Teeth
Indented or Notched Teeth
Smooth, Glassy-Looking Teeth
Cracked Teeth
Telling the Truth: Your Throat, Voice, Neck, and Jawp. 129
Lumps on the Front of the Neck
Lumps Elsewhere on the Neck
A Lump in the Throat
A Lump on the Jaw
Clicking Jaw
Stiff Jaw
Receding or Thrusting Chin
Frequent Yawning
Excessive Hiccupping
Chronic Coughing
Colored Phlegm
A Hoarse, Raspy Voice
A Sporadically Hoarse Voice
Frequent Throat Clearing
Trembly Voice
Slurred Speech
Suddenly Speaking with a Foreign Accent
Speaking Too Loudly or Too Softly
The Main Body of Evidence: Your Torso and Extremitiesp. 151
Mismatched Breasts
A Lump in the Breast
Lumpy Breasts
Swollen, Discolored Breasts
Enlarged Breasts in Men
Extra Breasts
Triple Nipples
Inverted Nipples
Crusty Nipples
Leaky Nipples
Apple-Shaped Body
Sudden or Unexplained Weight Change
Curved Back
Hunched Back
Stiff, Rigid Gait
Stiff Joints
Creaky Knees
Being Left-Handed
Knobby Knuckles
Club-Like Fingers
Curled Fingers
Bump on the Wrist or Hand
Twisted Toes
A Bump on Your Heel
Body Tingling and Numbness
Numb or Tingly Extremities
That Funny-Bone Feeling
Tingly, Numb Fingers
Tingly, Numb Feet
Night Jerks
Jittery Legs
Leg Cramps During the Night
Leg Cramps During the Day
Feeling Your Heart Beat
Cold Hands and Feet
Feeling Cold All Over
Feeling Hot When It's Not
Private Parts, Farts, and Body Wastesp. 195
Crooked Penis
A Prolonged Erection
Spotted Penis
Scrotal Swelling
A Swollen Penis Head
A Lump on the Testicle
Red Ejaculate
Penile Discharge
Vaginal Farts
Vaginal Discharge
A Gurgling Stomach
Excessive Burping
Frequent Farting
Feeling Bloated
Green Stools
Orange Stools
Red or Maroon Stools
Black, Tarry Stools
Pale Poop
Floating Feces
Greasy, Smelly Stools
Slimy Stools
Skinny Stools
Colored Urine
Smelly Urine
Sweet Pee
Foamy Urine
Cloudy Urine
Frequent Urination
Leaking Urine
Profuse Perspiration
Night Sweats
No Sweat
Smelly Sweat
Scratching the Surface: Your Nails and Skinp. 239
Changing Nail Colors
Strange Markings
Misshapen Nails
Texture Transformations
Unusual Skin Colors
Facial Marks and Masks
Body Patches and Patterns
Spots and Veins
Visible Veins
Lumps and Bumps
Texture Changes
Body Signs Review: Multisystem Diseases and Their Signsp. 283
Body of Resources: Recommended Websites and Booksp. 293
My Body Signs Checkup Checklistp. 299
Indexp. 305
About the Authorsp. 321
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.


Chapter One
Your Hair
The Long and the Short of It

Hair defines us like no other part of the human body. It conveys to others an enormous amount of information: our age, gender, ethnicity, social status, religious and other group affiliations, personal hygiene habits, and—last but not least—our state of health. Yet the assumptions some people make based on our hair may be as false as their eyelashes. We can cover the gray, making us appear years younger; cut our hair very short or let it grow very long, making it difficult to determine our gender; or straighten curly hair or curl straight hair, making our ethnicity anyone's guess. And by adopting the hairstyles of the rich and famous, we can look like we're to the manor born when we may be struggling to make (split) ends meet.

Hair is overflowing with sexual symbolism and cultural significance. People in many parts of the world routinely—if not religiously—cover or remove it. English barristers, for example, wear wigs in court. Muslim and Orthodox Jewish women are required to cover their heads. And not only do Buddhists and some Christian monks shave their heads, but skinheads do as well.

While we're busy sending messages to the outside world by covering, cropping, curling, or coloring our hair, we should also pay attention to the messages it's sending us. Our untouched, natural hair can give us a headful of vital information that we should carefully read and heed. Your age, sex, and race, as well as where you live and the hair products you use, all affect your hair's mineral makeup.
Hair contains a myriad of minerals, from aluminum to zinc, and for many years hair analysis has been used to confirm mercury and arsenic poisoning. More recently, researchers have been able to diagnose eating disorders from hair samples.

Indeed, the quality, quantity, and color of our hair can all be signs of our physical well-being. No wonder hair is said to be a barometer of health.

Starting at the top
Hair texture changes

Hair is made up mostly of dead protein (keratin), but that doesn't mean it's supposed to lie there listlessly. Dry, brittle hair and split ends can all be signs that you're mistreating your hair with excessive washing, brushing, drying, dyeing, or bleaching. However, these hair shaft disorders, as they're called, can also be signs of stress, hormonal changes, nutritional deficiencies, and thyroid disease.

If you notice, for example, that your formerly luxuriant locks tangle easily or have become dry, brittle, or coarse, don't be so quick to rush off and buy the latest expensive new hair product. You may, in fact, have the classic signs of hypothyroidism—a fairly common but often underdiagnosed condition, especially among women. (See Appendix I.) When the thyroid gland, which regulates metabolism, fails to produce enough thyroid hormone, hair growth—as well as other body functions—slows down. Hair texture change can signal iodine deficiency as well, which is also implicated in thyroid disease. (See Chapter 6.)

Of course, texture changes may merely be an indicator of the natural hormone changes of pregnancy or menopause. During pregnancy, dry hair may become oilier or shinier, while oily hair can become drier and duller. Previously curly hair may become straighter and straight hair curlier. Hair may even become thicker, but this is due to the slowing down of normal hair loss that typically occurs in pregnancy rather than the thickening of individual hairs. (See Hair Loss in Women, below.)
During menopause, when estrogen levels drop, many women notice that their hair lacks softness and luster. The estrogen loss can cause hair shafts to thin and dry out, so new hairs will be duller and less manageable. New hair growth also tapers off
Both hair texture change and hair loss are also common reactions to chemotherapy or radiation treatment for canc

Excerpted from Body Signs: From Warning Signs to False Alarms... How to Be Your Own Diagnostic Detective by Joan Liebmann-Smith, Jacqueline Egan
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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