20 things your eyes, hair and skin reveal about your overall health
20 things your eyes, hair and skin reveal about your overall health
Eyes can become red and irritated from allergies, fatigue, wearing contact lenses and more, but dark red spots on the eye are much more worrisome. Multiple burst blood vessels could be a warning sign of diabetes. Diabetes causes blood sugar to build up. This can sometimes block the tiny blood vessels in your eye, causing them to swell or burst and leak blood or fluid. This condition is called diabetic retinopathy.
White rings in your eyes
Unless you're a beauty vlogger illuminating yourself with megawatt ring lights, a white ring or arc around the iris could be a signal of high cholesterol. In older adults, the ring is caused by fat and cholesterol deposits and is totally normal; but in people younger than 60, it could indicate high cholesterol and higher risk of heart attack and stroke.
The optic nerve at the back of your eye is directly connected to your brain. Because of this, neurological issues can sometimes manifest in and around the eye. Unequal pupil size as well as eye pressure and eye pain with no ocular cause could all point to brain issues, such as a tumor, aneurysm, infection or multiple sclerosis (MS).
Your eyes can feel dry as a reaction to the weather, cigarette smoke, starting at screens too long or medication. Dry eyes are also an unfortunate side effect of aging, especially in post-menopausal women. But dry eyes can also be a symptom of thyroid disease or autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and Sjögren's syndrome. If dry eyes are a persistent problem for you, don't keep this from your doctor.
Strained eyes or an eye twitch
Tired eyes are a good indication that your entire body needs some serious R&R. Strained, overly teary, or twitching eyes usually mean that your eyes are fatigued and overworked. Power down your devices, switch off your screens and get some shut-eye. If the twitch persists, take it up with your doctor. It could be a sign of a neurological or muscle condition.
Night blindness, the inability to see in low light, is a common side effect of aging; but if you're younger, it could be a sign that you're not getting enough vitamin A. This deficiency is rare in developed countries and can be treated with supplements or by adding vitamin A-rich foods to your diet like carrots, spinach, kale and sweet potatoes, which promote and protect eye health.
It's not just the hair on your head that can be a barometer for your health. Hair on your arms, legs and even face can show you something is wrong. Hyperthyroidism can cause hair loss, which is often most noticeable in the eyebrows. If the outer third of your eyebrow seems to disappear or if your brows begin to look patchy, your thyroid hormones might be causing the change in appearance.
Increased hair growth
While most people worry about hair loss, increased hair growth could indicate your hormones are off balance. Thicker, darker facial or body hair in women can be a sign of excess testosterone. The hormonal disorder polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can also cause excessive hair growth on your face, chest, stomach, back, hands or feet as a result of excess androgen. If hair growth begins inexplicably in these areas during adulthood, you may want to book an appointment with an endocrinologist to see if your hormones are to blame.
Dull or thin hair
Your diet actually fuels your hair growth, and some foods are better for your hair than others. So if your diet is lacking in nutrients, it could show up on your head. Your body prioritizes sending nutrients to your vital organs first; if you're not getting enough vitamins or protein, your hair might not get any of these nutrients to support new cells. As a result, your hair may become dull, thin, brittle and even slow to grow.
Hair falling out
If you notice a significant amount of hair falling out in the shower or in your brush or comb, it could be the sign of an iron deficiency. Iron is present in spinach, red meat, and other nutrient-dense foods. Add more of them to your diet to support your hair and prevent more extreme hair loss.
Receding hairlines and balding are a normal part of aging for both women and men, but what isn't normal is when hair comes out in clumps or patches. Stress or an event like childbirth can trigger temporary rapid hair loss. But outside of those circumstances, this can indicate a serious health condition. Hypothyroidism, HIV and certain types of cancer such as Hodgkin's lymphoma can all cause extreme breaking, thinning, or loss of hair.
Outside irritants, eczema, and allergies can all aggravate your skin, but did you know stress can trigger bumps, breakouts, rashes or hives? Stress causes your body to produce hormones that trigger oil production, which may lead to pimples. Stress can also compromise your immune system, meaning your body is less able to fight off irritants that normally aren't a problem. As a result, you may experience hives after eating certain foods or being exposed to other irritants. Other more serious conditions such as celiac or lupus can cause hives as well; if you have an unexplained allergic reaction, don't shrug it off. Talk to your doctor to try and figure out what caused the sudden breakout on your skin.
Much like hair loss, wrinkles are an inescapable consequence of aging. But if you're getting wrinkles extremely early, something might be going on beneath the surface. Deep, furrowed brow wrinkles in pre- or early menopausal women might be a sign of osteoporosis, as weaker bones are linked to weaker skin that creases more easily.
Dry lips often indicate you're dehydrated, either from sweating or simply not drinking enough water. While lip balm might help temporarily, drinking water will rejuvenate your lips from the inside out. Chronically cracked lips can also be an indication of Sjögren's syndrome, riboflavin deficiency or even a yeast infection.
Dark skin patches
Don't ignore or simply try to scrub off darker, thicker patches of skin if they appear on your body. Called acanthosis nigricans, this could be a sign of pre-diabetes, a hormonal condition like PCOS, or even cancer. If you notice these patches, see a dermatologist right away.
Change in skin tone
If your skin seems discolored and adopts a paler or more yellow tone, you could be anemic or have liver disease, respectively. A bluish or graying tinge, especially on the lips or extremities, could be a sign of poor circulation or low blood flow. While this may happen for many reasons, some cases of poor circulation are later linked to heart or lung disease.
If your skin is itchy all over without a rash or hives, it could simply be due to dry skin. But it could also signal something more sinister. Liver disease does not initially cause many distinctive external symptoms, but persistent itchy skin is one of first signs to appear. It's thought that this might be caused by substances that accumulate in the blood as a result of the disease.
Dry skin is quite common, and most typically occurs during winter when the air is cool and dry. Dehydration can also cause dry skin; staying hydrated keeps your skin hydrated, as well. However, in some rare cases dry skin can signal something much more serious. Psoriasis, Type 2 diabetes and thyroid disorders can all cause dry skin in some people.
Your nails can be surprisingly revealing of your internal health. Pale or light-colored nails are often an indicator of an underlying issue such as anemia, liver disease or malnutrition. White nails or extremely light nails are slightly more alarming, as they are a sign of liver failure or hepatitis.
Vertical nail ridges are extremely common and shouldn't be a cause for alarm. These ridges occur more often as you age. In some cases, however, nail ridges can be a sign of a more serious problem. Anemia can cause nail ridges or tiny dents in the nail. Additionally, horizontal nail ridges can be a sign of acute kidney disease, diabetes or thyroid disease. If you have multiple nail ridges, make sure you tell your doctor. This is one of those serious health warning signs that are easy to miss.
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