Written by Solaade Ayo-Aderele - Nigeria
There are some illnesses that don't knock you down. You may be up and about without knowing that you're genuinely ill and need to slow down and take care of yourself.
Health experts say nature makes us know that our body is crashing under ill health when it manifests certain telltale signs. Body parts such as the lips, tongue, eyes, palms, etc. sometimes warn us about our health. Here are a few telltale signs that we need to be aware of.
Lips: Cracked, sore, pale
Human lips have been designed to speak. However, beyond lending voice to your intentions and desires, your lips also speak volumes about your health!
Lips can become pale, cracked, plagued with cold sores, or swollen. Whichever way, the state of your lips will indicate your state of health, hence the need to recognise what's going on in your body, health-wise, as your lips manifest it.
Family Doctor, Tunde Johnson, warns that if you've not been hit in the mouth and didn't fall down from a commercial motorcycle, you should be genuinely concerned if you wake up with swollen lips.
He says this is because swollen lips might be indicative of Crohn's disease - a type of inflammatory bowel disease that may affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract from mouth to anus.
Johnson explains, "This disease is caused by a combination of environmental, immune and bacterial factors in genetically susceptible individuals; and it results in chronic inflammatory disorder, in which the body's immune system attacks the gastrointestinal tract."
He adds that sometimes, when you eat foods that you're allergic to, it may result in swollen lips. So, when your lips suddenly swell up, check it out with your doctor in order to prevent major health issue.
Angular cheilitis (cracks on both sides of the mouth) is another telltale sign that all is not well. Johnson says this symptom is common among people who are anaemic; and that's why, in extreme case of anaemia, the cracked surfaces are whitish, irritating to whoever looks at it.
He explains, "Angular cheilitis presents with sensitive sores at one or both corners of the mouth; and though it is not contagious like cold sores and fever blisters, nor spreads to other parts of the body, it can spread to the other side of the mouth fairly easily."
The physician warns that angular cheilitis might be indicative of iron deficiency. "Deficiencies of iron and various B vitamins account for as many as 25 per cent of cases of angular cheilitis, hence the need to eat balanced diet always; and to also treat any infection as appropriate," the doctor says.
He notes that iron deficiency is the most common cause of anaemia worldwide, being a deficiency of red blood cells that can occur either through the reduced production or an increased loss of red blood cells.
"To produce red blood cells, three essential elements must be present: iron, vitamin B12 and folic acid. Hence, iron deficiency anaemia is anaemia caused by the lack of iron to create red blood cells," Johnson explains; adding that balanced diet and occasional use of supplements under the supervision of a doctor will rid you of it.
The doctor says all the noticeable changes in the lips must not be ignored; rather, he counsels, let your physician give you a clean bill of health instead of resorting to self-medication.
Regular cold infection
Beyond the lips, though, experts say when you're regularly catching cold, something might have gone terribly wrong with your health!
The first miserable signs of common cold include sneezing, scratchy throat, slight headache and runny nose. If you don't know that you should apply first aid to these symptoms and stop the cold in its track, it could progress to fever and knock you down for days.
While we are all susceptible to cold once in a while; however, some people catch cold quite frequently that their middle name could as well be called 'Cold'!
A General Practitioner, Dr. Lola Ayobami, warns that you are more likely to catch common cold if you are excessively fatigued, if you are distressed emotionally, or if you have allergies with nose and throat symptoms.
"Again, when your immune system is compromised, you will always come down with cold more than the average person. Things that can lower your immune system include lack of adequate sleep, bad nutritional habit - especially if you regularly feast on sugary foods and drinks, to the exclusion of fruit and vegetables.
"Reorder your priorities, food-wise; drink enough water to keep hydrated and to rid your system of toxins, and you will see an improvement in your resistance to diseases or illnesses," Ayobami enthuses.
Dermatologists say our skin is the biggest single organ in our body, and that it's one reason why what ails the skin might as well be a warning for us to stop and take stock of our health.
Consultant Dermatologist, Dr. Goodness Anyaeba, says certain things that affect our health often use the skin to signal for help and to put up signs warning you aren't as well as you might want to believe.
Anyaeba says if your skin is always being infected with acne, eczema, or any other skin disorder, it may be a sign that you are stressed and therefore need to slow down; or it may be an allergic reaction to some products you are using, or some foods you are eating.
"Whichever way, once your skin is not as vibrant as it should, watch it. Know the way your body functions and don't take any uncomfortable symptom for granted," the dermatologist warns.
Good sleep laced with tiredness
It's easy to conclude that something is wrong when you can't sleep through the night. On such occasions, it is understandable when you wake up and you're still not refreshed. However, there are people who will sleep soundly through the night, have naps in the afternoon, but are perpetually fatigued!
Ayobami warns that the situation might be symptomatic of thyroid problem. According to online portal, health.com, certain symptoms show that your thyroid isn't working right and you need to see the doctor without delay.
The thyroid produces thyroid hormone, which regulates the body's temperature, metabolism and heartbeat, among others. When the thyroid is under- or over-active, sluggish, produces too little thyroid hormone or too much, you've got to do something.
The signs of problematic thyroid include unexplainable exhaustion, unusual depression, anxiety, increased appetite (symptomatic of overactive thyroid), inability to concentrate, low libido, heart palpitations, itchy, dry skin, constipation, diarrhoea, longer menstrual periods with a heavier flow and more cramps, sudden tingling or numbness - or actual pain - in your arms, legs, feet, or hands (signs of underactive thyroid), unexplainable weight gain, thinning hair, etc.
In conclusion, whatever language your body speaks, always learn to decode it; and instead of resorting to self treatment, see the doctor!