Take Care Of U R Health
10 instant health checks
How healthy are you? Give yourself a quick MOT with these simple tests
1. Check inside lower eye lids
If the inside of your lower eye lid looks unusually pale, you could be anaemic, especially if you have heavy periods or your diet is low in iron. Other places to check for paleness are your gums and your finger nail beds.
2. Check inside your mouth for discoloration and ulcers
Mouth cancer now accounts for five per cent of all tumours. All smokers and those over the age of 40 should look for persistent white patches, red velvety lesions or ulcers that last longer than a couple of weeks.Lesions on the roof of the mouth or on top of the tongue are often spotted quickly, but those on the floor of the mouth, under the tongue or in the crevices at the back of the throat are difficult to detect in the early stages. Use a dental mirror to view the floor of your mouth, the sides and underneath of your tongue, and the gutters around your gums.
3. Check nails
Your nails provide lots of instant health checks, which is one reason why doctors often start a physical examination here. The following table shows some possible nail signs:
|Loss of usual pink nail colour||Low level of haemoglobin in the blood (anaemia) due to excessive bleeding, lack of iron, vitamin B12 or folic acid|
|Deep ridges across the nails due to a temporary lack of nail growth (Beau’s lines)||Physical stress, such as periods of illness or lack of zinc|
|Small, shallow pits in the nail plate||A few may be due to trauma. Lots can be a sign of psoriasis, alopecia areata or atopic eczema|
|Separation of the end of the nail from the nail bed||Can occur with psoriasis, an over-active thyroid gland or nail trauma|
|Thin, spoon-shaped nails||Usually due to lack of iron, but is sometimes hereditary|
|White marks on the nails which can form spots, streaks or affect the whole nail||Usually due to trauma, but can be linked with low levels of albumin so fluid leaks from the circulation, compressing blood flow under the nails. White nails that also feel rough suggests a fungal nail infection|
|Purple-black discoloration of nail bed||Trauma, such as hitting your hand rather than a nail, with a hammer|
|Yellow-discolouration of nails, sometimes with thickening and slow-growing nails||Nicotine staining, using nail polish without a base coat, fungal infection. Sometimes it can be linked with poor lymph drainage|
|Swelling of the fingertips beneath the nail beds||Illnesses affecting the heart or lungs|
|Long, thin, splinter-like brown streaks due to bleeding from tiny blood vessels under the nails||Although this is often occupational, it is sometimes due to tiny blood clots coming from an infection of the heart (bacterial endocarditis|
|Gross thickening of the nails, to resemble claws||Can occur in later life, especially in the big toe nail. May also be linked with trauma, psoriasis or fungal infection|
4. Breast checks
One in nine women will develop breast cancer, but early diagnosis often leads to a cure.
- examine your breasts regularly
- get to know their normal look and feel
- look out for any lumps, dimpling, thickening or change in shape and size
- attend free breast screening if you are between 50 and 70 years old
- if you notice any changes contact your GP straight away
5. Urine colour and smell
Check the colour of your wee when you visit the loo. If it’s pale in colour and relatively odourless, you’re well hydrated. If urine is dark and scant, you are likely to be dehydrated. Aim to drink at least two to three litres of fluid per day. If urine smells unpleasant, burns or stings, you could have a urine infection. In this instance, take a sample to your GP for a check. If you are always thirsty, passing lots of urine and it smells sweet, get checked for possible diabetes.
6. Vaginal discharge
A healthy discharge is pale white/cream and smells fresh. If it is discoloured, copious and smells unpleasant (yeasty or strongly fishy), visit a genito-urinary medicine clinic for a check-up in case you have a bacterial imbalance (bacterial vaginosis), Candida, or a sexually transmittable infection such as Chlamydia.
7. Check feet and toes for fungal skin/nail infections
Having checked your finger nails, don’t forget your feet. Fungal nail and skin infections often lurk here. Look for white/yellow discolouration of nails, vertical splits in nails, and rashes on the soles of your feet, and between your fourth and fifth toes. Treat with antifungal agents to prevent it spreading.
8. Skin pinch test for hydration
If you pinch the skin on the back of your hand, then let go, does it instantly snap back into place, or drop back rather sluggishly? The latter can suggest dehydration, or loss of skin elasticity due to premature skin ageing, which may have been caused, for example, by excessive sun exposure over many years.
9. Now check the skin all over your body, by standing naked in front of a large mirror or get your partner to check places you can’t see easily, such as your back, for you. Look for moles or other blemishes that seem to be changing. While in many cases, the lesions will turn out to be harmless, skin cancer is on the increase. If diagnosed early, it is often curable. Warning signs to look out for are a mark that starts to:
- get bigger
- turn darker
- go scaly
- crust over or scab without healing
- develop a raised, rolled edge
- an ulcer or sore that gets worse or fails to heal within three weeks
10. Take any niggling symptoms seriously
Recurrent aches, pains, coughs, discharges, changes in bowel habit, lumps or odd sensations are often ignored in the hope they will go away. These can be signs of problems needing medical investigation and treatment, so don’t ignore them. Make an appointment to get them checked out as soon as possible.