Obvious Signs Of Illness That You Should Never Ignore

Before people are diagnosed with a serious health issue such as disease or cancer, there’s a pretty good chance that there were some tell-tale signs or symptoms hinting that something just wasn’t right. Any changes to the body can be clues indicating larger health issues, so take them seriously! Here are some common signs of poor health, many of them visible to the naked eye. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s a good idea to get yourself checked out as soon as possible. This list is not meant to alarm; it’s provided as a reminder to pay attention to your body and any warning signs it gives you.

Are You Looking More Pale Than Usual?

skin
olegixanovpht/Unsplash
olegixanovpht/Unsplash

Skin pigment can be an important indicator of overall health, so if you notice that you’ve been looking paler than usual lately, it could mean that something is going on. Skin that appears lighter than normal could indicate anemia, which is a lack of red blood cells that can also cause fatigue, breathlessness, and dizziness.

According to WebMD, pale skin can also be a late symptom of small intestine cancer, although this type of cancer is relatively rare. Either way, it’s time to see a doctor if your skin isn’t looking like it usually does.

Snoring Can Be An Indicator Of Sleep Apnea

snoring
Wodicka/ullstein bild via Getty Images
Wodicka/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Snoring is not just an annoyance to your housemates, it’s also one of the most common indicators of sleep apnea. This sleeping disorder occurs when the airways are obstructed, which can be caused by a number of things. Obesity is the most common cause, but smoking, sedatives, and alcohol consumption are also contributing factors.

Sleep apnea is not something to ignore – if left untreated it can increase the risk of heart disease and heart failure. Other tell-tale symptoms of sleep apnea include waking up gasping for air, a sore throat, headaches, low energy levels, and forgetfulness. You’ll need to participate in a sleep study for an official diagnosis.

Pay Close Attention To Large Or Unusual Moles

Doctor Antonella Tosti, Dermatologist University of Miami School of Medicine, displays an image on her iphone of a mark on the skin
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Moles are clusters of pigmented cells that show up as dark brown spots on the face or body. Most moles are benign, but if you have one that’s an odd color, shape, or size, it’s important to have it checked out right away because it could be skin cancer.

The Prevent Cancer Foundation outlines the “ABCDE rule” for spotting a worrisome mole. “Asymmetry (one half of the mole doesn’t match the other), Border irregularity, Color that is not uniform, Diameter greater than 6 mm (about the size of a pencil eraser), and Evolving size, shape or color.” Don’t wait, contact your dermatologist ASAP if you have a mole with any of these characteristics.

You’re Always Feeling Tired And/Or Run-Down

Woman sleeping in subway, Tokyo, Japan.
Nano Calvo/VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Nano Calvo/VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

It’s a simple fact that everyday life is exhausting! That’s why so many people dismiss tiredness as “normal” and something that just needs to be powered through.

But if you’re chronically exhausted and can’t think of a good reason for it, it might be time to visit a health care professional. Being tired all the time can indicate a whole slew of conditions such as anemia, heart disease, thyroid disorders, diabetes, depression, and more. It’s best to get checked out by your doctor just in case one of these potentially serious issues is behind your exhaustion.

Changes In Your Body Hair Can Be More Than A Nuisance

arm
ahmadossayli/Unsplash
ahmadossayli/Unsplash

As we age, our body hair goes through lots of changes due to hormones, which are the body’s chemical messengers. Hormones regulate everything from digestion to sleep to mood, and so much more.

Anytime you experience a sudden loss or increase in body hair, it can be an indicator that something’s going on with your hormones. It’s a smart idea to schedule an appointment with your regular doctor or an endocrinologist to make sure you don’t have a hormone imbalance.

Cold Feet? Read This Before You Put On A Second Pair Of Socks

warm socks
nukturnal/Unsplash
nukturnal/Unsplash

According to the experts at Harvard Health, having cold feet is an inherited trait for many people. But chronically cold feet can also be a sign of more serious problems, like Raynaud’s syndrome, vascular disease, atherosclerosis, or nerve damage (neuropathy).

The next time you’re tempted to put on an extra pair of socks, consider calling your doctor first and making sure your cold tootsies aren’t trying to hint at a bigger health problem.

Look Closely At Your Nails

toenails
Pinterest
Pinterest

Many of us prefer to keep our nails well-maintained, but did you realize that their natural appearance can give hints about your health? In fact, nails can provide information about nutrition, illness, kidney function, and even cancer.

The experts at Penn Medicine say you should be concerned about nails’ color, thickness, and texture, and contact a doctor if something seems odd or abnormal. Bottom line: pay attention to the state of your nails, and not just the polish color you paint them with.

Changes In Bathroom Habits Can Indicate Trouble

Public restroom
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

If you find that you’re having to urinate more frequently or have a weak urine stream, it could be an early sign of prostate or bladder cancer.

It’s also important to pay attention to bowel changes. Occasional constipation or diarrhea is usually nothing too serious, but persistent constipation could indicate colon cancer or an obstruction – neither of which are conditions to ignore. Additionally, if your stool becomes very “skinny” it could point to polyps or some other restriction in the colon. See a doctor right away.

Apple-Shaped Body Types Can Be More At Risk For Certain Conditions

women
priscilladupreez/Unsplash
priscilladupreez/Unsplash

People tend to fall into one of two categories based on where they gain weight: apple-shaped or pear-shaped. It might be surprising to some that people who fall into the apple-shaped category are at higher risk of developing heart disease than folks in the pear-shaped group.

Researchers reported in Nature Genetics that “while obesity is linked to a range of health conditions, excess fat around the middle seems to be a particular risk factor for certain diseases — like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.” Scientists are searching for medications that will help distribute excess fat in healthier places.

Never Ignore Inflamed Gums

flossing gums
DEA / M. FERMARIELLO/De Agostini via Getty Images
Stephanie Pilick/picture alliance via Getty Images

Do your gums bleed easily when you brush or floss, or do they look red and inflamed? WebMD offers this information: Bleeding gums could indicate gingivitis, which is caused by a buildup of plaque at your gum line. If left untreated, it could progress to periodontal disease.

Swollen or bleeding gums can also be a symptom of type 1 or type 2 diabetes, or even leukemia. Dental health is especially important since it relates to overall health. Get yourself to a dentist if you’re having any issues like the ones described.

Has Your Handwriting Changed?

handwriting
amaury_guti/Unsplash
amaury_guti/Unsplash

Many of us are aware that Parkinson’s disease is associated with shaky hands, so it’s not a huge surprise that changes in one’s handwriting can be an early symptom of the neurological movement disorder.

According to HealthLine, some early symptoms to look out for include “cramped handwriting or other writing changes, tremor, especially in [the] finger, hand or foot.” Other indicators of Parkinson’s could include uncontrollable movements during sleep, changes in voice, limb stiffness, and stooped posture.

Dry, Chapped Lips? You Could Be Deficient In This Vitamin

chapped lips
Gero Breloer/picture alliance via Getty Images
Gero Breloer/picture alliance via Getty Images

In the winter months or in dry climates, it’s not uncommon for lips to become chapped and flaky. But if your lips are excessively dry or you’re needing to reapply your balm or ChapStick more often, it could be a sign of an underlying condition — especially if your lips are cracking at the corners.

Cracked lips can be an indication that you’re deficient in B vitamins, especially B12. Try adding a daily vitamin and incorporate some vitamin B-rich foods into your diet. Dry and peeling lips could also mean that you’re dehydrated, so increase your water intake and see if that helps the problem.

Facial Rash In The Shape Of A Butterfly

lupus rash on face
Doktorinternet/Wikimedia Commons
Doktorinternet/Wikimedia Commons

A red, butterfly-shaped rash across your cheeks is certainly an annoyance, but it could also hint at a more serious problem: lupus.

While some people might initially mistake it for rosacea, “a tell-tale sign of lupus is a butterfly-shaped rash across the cheeks and bridge of the nose,” asserts WebMD. Other skin problems associated with the autoimmune disease include mouth sores, a sensitivity to the sun, and flaky red spots or purple rash on the face, neck, and arms. Be sure to have these symptoms checked out.

Listen To Your Anxiety

anxiety
jeshoots/Unsplash
jeshoots/Unsplash

Some people are just naturally more anxious than others, but if you notice you’re feeling more anxiety than normal there could be a few underlying causes. Stress, panic disorder, or generalized anxiety disorder could be causing an increase in uneasy feelings.

Anxiety can also be a symptom of other problems such as hyperthyroidism, hormone imbalances, or adrenal tumors. If you’re suddenly having anxious thoughts all the time, it might be time to schedule a checkup.

A Swollen Neck

neck
lazargugleta/Unsplash
lazargugleta/Unsplash

If the front of your neck is swollen it could mean that you have a goiter, which is an abnormal enlargement of your thyroid gland. A goiter can be caused by certain medications, or it can indicate a lack of dietary iodine. It can also be a symptom of Graves’ disease, an overactive thyroid condition.

Your doctor will run tests on your thyroid levels to assess what’s going on to cause your swollen neck and determine a treatment plan if necessary.

You Lose Weight Without Trying

woman using scale
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Although losing weight is a goal for many Americans, suddenly dropping several pounds without trying isn’t a good thing; it’s actually cause for alarm instead. According to Harvard Health, “Doctors become most concerned about unintentional weight loss if it reaches more than five percent of the usual body weight (about ten pounds).”

There are many causes of unwanted weight loss, and some are quite serious. Chronic medical problems and acute illnesses such as pneumonia can be to blame, as can “undiagnosed cancer, long-term infections, depression, heart or lung disease, and digestive problems that prevent the body from absorbing nutrients from food.” Be sure to visit your doctor right away if you’ve suddenly dropped weight.

Damage To Your Teeth

Dentist caring for a patient's teeth.
Monasse Th/Andia/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Monasse Th/Andia/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Dental decay is often due to our diets. For example, damage to the front teeth is most likely from sugary beverages and foods.

However, an erosion of the enamel on the teeth that are at the very back of the mouth can be caused by acid reflux, a problem that many people aren’t aware of until their dentists point it out. Other symptoms of acid reflux include a foul taste in the mouth, frequent sore throat, and frequent coughing. Untreated reflux can cause further tooth decay and also lead to esophageal cancer.

A Yellowish Tint To The Eyes Or Skin Is A Red Flag

jaundice
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Wikimedia Commons
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Wikimedia Commons

This is a symptom that should never be ignored. If your skin or eyes develop a yellowish tint it could indicate some serious underlying health issues, even if you feel just fine.

According to WebMD, yellowed eyes or skin could be a sign of many conditions including liver disease, hepatitis, jaundice, or even cancer of the small intestine. Do not delay in seeing a doctor if you notice this potentially serious condition.

Chronic Hemorrhoids Can Be More Than A Nuisance

Crohn's Disease Is A Chronic Inflammation Of The Digestive Tube
BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images
BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images

Although many people aren’t too eager to discuss their hemorrhoids, it’s important to address the issue with a health care provider if you experience hemorrhoids that don’t respond to treatment. A specialist should check everything out and make sure you don’t have Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory disorder of the gastrointestinal tract.

This is because about 30% of Crohn’s patients have a form of the disease that manifests as fleshy sores or growths around the anal area. These are often mistaken for common hemorrhoids and leads to the disorder going undiagnosed and untreated. Crohn’s can lead to bowel obstructions, painful fissures, and colon cancer, so you’ll definitely want to have any lingering hemorrhoids checked out.

A Cough That Just Won’t Go Away Could Be A Sign Of Much Bigger Problems

woman coughing
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Although a persistent cough can be caused by a variety of factors like sinus problems, allergies, infection, or asthma, a cough that just will not go away requires a visit to a health care specialist.

When unaccompanied by allergies, asthma, or an illness, a nagging cough is almost always an indication that there’s something very wrong. It’s also one of the first symptoms of throat, lung, or larynx cancer, so you’ll want to have any lingering cough checked out as soon as possible.